If you or a family member have ever experienced pain from wisdom teeth, you may have questioned if this type of pain is normal. Maybe you contacted a dental professional, or maybe you tried to tolerate the pain on your own. This discomfort could be caused by a condition known as pericoronitis, which commonly affects wisdom teeth as they begin to break through the gum tissue. Here's what to know about this infection and how your dentist may approach pericoronitis treatment.
Pericoronitis Signs and Symptoms
Pericoronitis is a dental condition that causes infection and inflammation of the soft tissues surrounding a partially erupted tooth, as an article in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) explains. Approximately 81% of people in their 20s experience this condition at some time. Most commonly, the infection occurs around the third molars, also known as wisdom teeth.
As a review in the International Journal of Dental and Medical Research (IJDMR) notes, there are a number of symptoms associated with pericoronitis, including pain, swelling, bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth. Other symptoms can include inflammation in the flap of tissue that covers the erupting tooth (known as the pericoronal flap) and pus discharge from the area. If this condition is left untreated and the infection spreads, it can possibly become life-threatening.
Risk Factors for Pericoronitis
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (AAOMS), electing to not have wisdom teeth removed increases a person's chances of developing pericoronitis. These teeth are prone to infection because there's often little space left in the back of the mouth for them to erupt into, and people commonly have difficulty cleaning that far back in their mouths.
Overall general health does not affect the likelihood of someone getting pericoronitis, as the BJGP article explains. The only exception to this is upper respiratory infections, which are better known as the common cold. This illness can sometimes precede the development of pericoronitis, and the article concludes that 43% of patients with pericoronitis had a cold prior to the infection.
The AAOMS recommends most people to have their wisdom teeth taken out during early adulthood. When people decide to leave in their wisdom teeth, it can lead to other problems over the course of a lifetime, such as periodontal disease and dental decay. Interestingly enough, even if your wisdom teeth aren't causing pain, it doesn't mean the area is healthy. It's always best to have your dentist check your teeth to ensure they're coming in properly.
How Is Pericoronitis Treated?
It's normal to experience a short-term case of pericoronitis that lasts for three to four days when teeth first erupt, explains the BJGP article. If this happens, there are several actions you can take at home to ease your symptoms and improve your oral hygiene:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day.
- Floss or use interdental brushes daily.
- Rinse your mouth with a chlorhexidine-based mouthwash.
It's possible to even reverse your pericoronitis symptoms by following these steps. If you're looking to ease your discomfort, you can talk to your dentist about pain medications, too.
If the infection persists beyond this time frame or occurs repeatedly, seek treatment from a dental professional as soon as possible. Typical pericoronitis treatment involves the removal of wisdom teeth. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics if complications prevent the teeth from being taken out immediately. As the IJDMR review explains, your dentist may also recommend removal of the pericoronal flap to help prevent infection in the area.
Rest assured that pericoronitis is a common complication related to wisdom teeth, and your dentist can guide you toward the best treatment option for you.