Patient with a pericoronitis
Pericoronitis is a dental disorder in which the gum tissue around the molar teeth, or any erupting tooth, becomes swollen and infected. This disorder usually occurs as a result of wisdom teeth, the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties. Temporary pericoronitis often occurs when children's primary and secondary teeth are erupting.
Pericoronitis can develop when teeth, usually wisdom teeth only partially erupt (break through the gum). This allows an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. In cases of pericoronitis, food or plaque (a bacterial film that remains on teeth after eating) may get caught underneath a flap of gum around the tooth. If it remains there, it can irritate the gum and lead to pericoronitis. If the pericoronitis is severe, the swelling and infection may extend beyond the jaw to the cheeks and neck. In young children, symptoms of tooth eruption can cause flu like symptoms including runny nose and fevers.
Symptoms of pericoronitis can include:
pericoronitis on a wisdom tooth
Your dentist will examine your mouth or wisdom teeth and how they are coming in, and see if any are partially erupted. He or she may take an X-ray periodically to determine the alignment of the wisdom teeth. Your dentist will also take note of any symptoms such as swelling or infection, and will check for the presence of a gum flap around a wisdom tooth. In young children the symptoms usually subside in a few days as the teeth continue to erupt.
If the pericoronitis is limited to the tooth (for example, if the pain and swelling has not spread), treat it by rinsing your mouth with warm salt water. You should also make sure that the gum flap has no food trapped under it.
If your tooth, jaw, and cheek are swollen and painful, see your dentist right away. He or she can treat the infection with antibiotics (usually penicillin, unless you are allergic). You can also take pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. The dentist may also prescribe a pain medication.
If the pain and inflammation are severe, or if the pericoronitis recurs, oral surgery to have the gum flap or wisdom tooth removed may be necessary. If there is an opposing wisdom tooth that is hitting the inflamed gum upon closing, often removing this opposing wisdom tooth can lead to quick relief. Sometimes your dentist can make the appropriate referral to the oral and maxillofacial surgeon. A low-level laser can be used to reduce pain and inflammation associated with pericoronitis.
Dr. Neal and the team ay Crystal Lake Dental Associates has extensive training in oral surgery including treatment of pericoronitis around wisdom teeth.
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