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Pericoronitis is a dental condition that can affect partially-erupted wisdom teeth. When there isn’t enough room for your wisdom teeth to come in, they come in partially or not at all and can lead to pericoronitis which is inflammation of the tissue surrounding the tooth.

It can develop into a painful infection that can easily and quickly spread to the surrounding gums, mouth, jaw, and neck, if it is not treated in time.

Here is a brief look at pericoronitis, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

Causes of Pericoronitis

When a wisdom tooth has partially erupted—meaning it has begun to break through the gum tissue—it can develop an irritation, and eventually infection, known as pericoronitis. Pericoronitis is caused by bacteria, from food and plaque that has gathered under the gum flap and irritated the area.

Symptoms of Pericoronitis

The most common symptoms of pericoronitis can include:

  • pain
  • swelling in the gums and lymph nodes
  • difficulty opening the mouth
  • a bad smell or taste in the mouth
  • infection

More serious symptoms of pericoronitis include:

  • swelling on the affected side of the face
  • muscle spasms in the jaw
  • swollen lymph nodes under your chin (the submandibular nodes)

The following factors increase your risk of developing pericoronitis

  • pregnancy
  • fatigue and emotional stress
  • poor oral hygiene
  • excess gum tissue
  • wisdom teeth that haven’t properly erupted
  • age between 20 and 29
Treatment for Pericoronitis

When a dentist diagnoses pericoronitis during your clinical exam, no matter its severity, he will examine the wisdom tooth and how far the irritation or infection has spread. Pericoronitis can be tricky to treat because the flap of gum tissue won’t go away until the wisdom tooth emerges naturally or until the tissue is removed.

Depending on the severity of the infection and condition of the wisdom tooth, antibiotics may be prescribed in addition to a wisdom tooth extraction.

What Happens If Pericornitis Is Not Treated?

It is essential to see a dentist right away to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment. If not treated immediately, the infection can spread to other areas of your mouth.

The main complication of pericoronitis is pain and swelling around the molar. You may also have difficulty biting down or experience lockjaw. In some cases, an infection can spread from the affected tooth to other areas of your mouth. It’s possible, though rare, that it can lead to a life-threatening complication called Ludwig’s angina in which the infection spreads into the head and neck or it can lead to sepsis.

If you believe you are suffering from pericoronitis, schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

About the Author – Dr. Thuy Nguyen, DDS

Dr. Thuy Nguyen DDS in Tukwila, WA holds a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and received a Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Washington. In 2011, she also completed the Progressive Orthodontic Program. She is known for her fine work and a friendly and caring attitude. Her enthusiasm for dentistry is contagious, as she designs and improves smile after smile. Dr. Nguyen is bilingual in English and Vietnamese. She maintains memberships to the Seattle King County Dental Association, The Washington State Dental Association, and The American Dental Association.

References:

Pericoronitis, American Dental Association – https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/member-benefits/practice-resources/dental-practice-parameters/pericoronitis

Pericoronitis (Infection Near Wisdom Teeth), Colgate Professional – https://www.colgateprofessional.com/education/patient-education/topics/wisdom-teeth/pericoronitis-infection-near-wisdom-tooth