What is a Gingival Operculum?
Simply put, a gingival operculum refers to a flap of excess tissue covering a partially erupted tooth. You may also hear it called a pericoronal flap. This flap usually occurs on wisdom teeth, but it can happen around the base of any tooth that has not erupted completely. The flap of tissue may be hard to keep clean, and food debris and bacteria can become trapped in the area, causing inflammation.
This inflammation is clinically referred to as pericoronitis — or sometimes operculitis. When the operculum becomes infected, the tissue becomes swollen and painful. According to the International Journal of Dental and Medical Research, you may also experience pain during biting or swallowing, halitosis, bad taste, or discharge of pus in the area. Without treatment, complications can arise, leading to swelling in the face, swollen lymph nodes, and jaw spasms. All indicate the spreading of the infection into the throat and sinus cavities, which could be life-threatening. If you notice early signs of pericoronitis, contact your dentist immediately.