Approximately seven to eight adults out of every ten have had their wisdom teeth removed, and there is good reason for those statistics. Wisdom teeth often cause crowding of the other teeth, and partially erupted teeth can result in other issues, including a condition known as pericoronitis. This painful disorder is a common complication that occurs when wisdom teeth begin to emerge. Below is more information on pericoronitis and what options are available for treatment:
What is pericoronitis?
Pericoronitis is an inflammatory condition of the tissues surrounding any partially erupted tooth, but it is usually associated with wisdom teeth due to the higher likelihood of problems with emergence. In cases of pericoronitis associated with wisdom teeth, the affected emergent tooth will be partially covered by a flap of gum tissue. As a result, food particles can be easily trapped beneath the flap, and this permits this space to become a prime breeding ground for bacteria. This increased microbial activity causes swelling in nearby tissues, and it also negatively affects taste and can even produce an unpleasant odor. If the bacterial involvement becomes extensive, it can affect nearby lymph nodes and cause swelling and muscle spasms in the lower jaw and neck. Systemic illness that results in a fever, severe pain and a general sense of feeling sick is another sign of advanced pericoronitis.
In addition to this proliferation of bacteria, the flap of gum tissue is vulnerable to being injured by the other teeth and during the normal activities of chewing and brushing. This can add to the pain and result in bleeding for the affected person.
How can pericoronitis be prevented?
Unfortunately, there is no known way to prevent the precipitating cause of pericoronitis, as the development of a gum flap can occur with any wisdom tooth eruption. As a result, the best that can be done is to carefully monitor the wisdom teeth as they erupt. It is also important to regularly visit the dentist, so they can keep a close watch for beginning signs of pericoronitis or the possibility that it could occur.
Should the tell-tale gum flap begin to appear during wisdom tooth emergence, action should be taken to prevent pericoronitis. Below are several things affected individuals can do for themselves to avoid an episode of pericoronitis:
Gargle and rinse after every meal - The use of a non-alcohol mouthwash after every meal is a good way to reduce the amount of trapped food beneath the gum flap. If mouthwash isn't available, even rinsing with clean tap water is helpful in keeping this area clear of debris.
Irrigate the area nightly - In addition to gargling and rinsing, the use of an oral irrigation device can be helpful in concentrating water flow into the area beneath the flap. Performing a nightly irrigation just before bed can ensure that bacterial growth is minimized during the night.
Brush with care - While all teeth should be brushed, including wisdom teeth, taking extra care when brushing around the flap will help prevent bruising and bleeding. Use only a soft toothbrush when brushing, as firm bristles can be painful or cause injury.
How can pericoronitis be treated?
Should pericoronitis develop despite best efforts to prevent it, there are several viable options for treatment:
Antibiotics - A dentist-prescribed regimen of antibiotics can help knock out some of the bacteria associated with pericoronitis and remove pain, as well.
Flap removal - Besides antibiotics, surgical excision of the flap is another excellent means of reducing symptoms and helping to create a healthier, less-painful mouth.
Wisdom tooth extraction - The "ultimate" option for treating pericoronitis is to remove the offending wisdom tooth, and all the remaining symptoms will disappear. Since this option involves surgery, be sure you understand the need for proper care and allow yourself post-surgery recovery time.
Contact a dentist at a clinic like TLC Dental Center for more information.