Around six months old, our first set of teeth begins to break through our gums. As we age, our second set of teeth replaces our baby teeth.
Our permanent teeth are comprised of molars, premolars, canines, and incisors, and usually, total up to 32 teeth.
By the age of 17 to 25 years old (or maybe later years), our mouth welcomes the third set of teeth. Commonly referred to as wisdom teeth, our third set of molars are the last teeth to erupt.
However, our wisdom teeth can come out normally, mesioangular, distoangular, or horizontal. They can also fail to break through the gums entirely or not develop at all which only 35 percent of the world experience.
But when the tooth fails to erupt wholly, it can lead to a dental problem called pericoronitis.
What is Pericoronitis?
Colloquially named the “wisdom tooth infection,” pericoronitis occurs when the soft tissues surrounding the crown of a partially erupted tooth where the gum tissue overlaps the chewing surface of the tooth become inflamed.
Because of the partial eruption of the wisdom tooth, an opening for bacteria to enter and food particles to get wedged is created around the tooth. Bacteria then can build up and cause an abscess to form under the operculum or the gum flap.
If left untreated, the infection can spread, irritate the gingiva, and lead to pericoronitis that, when severe, can reach the jaw, cheeks, and neck.
The infection can be chronic or acute. Chronic pericoronitis is a mild inflammation with no to minor symptoms. Alternatively, acute pericoronitis has intensified, wide-ranged symptoms which can include swelling, pain, and fever.
People in their mid-20s or those developing their wisdom tooth are more susceptible to wisdom tooth infection. Also, wisdom tooth often, if not always, emerges at the back of the mouth which is difficult to reach when brushing, heightening the area’s vulnerability to being infected by bacteria.
Symptoms of pericoronitis may differ in individuals as they are dependent on the infection’s severity.
Indications of the dental problem include:
- pain on the oral cavity
- swollen gums
- loss appetite
- difficulty in the movement of the mouth and jaw
- swelling of the lymph nodes
- a bad taste in the mouth
Pericoronitis can be diagnosed through clinical evaluation and the occurrence of symptoms.
A dental X-ray and check-up can help identify the position of the wisdom tooth, assess the condition of the mouth, and check indications of the wisdom tooth infection.
Pain and inflammation management, surgery, and wisdom tooth extraction can aid in addressing pericoronitis.
- Be wary of symptoms and consult your dentist immediately for the right diagnosis. Your dentist may prescribe medicines to relieve you of the pain and swelling, but when the pain becomes unmanageable, undergoing oral surgery to remove the gum flap may be proposed.
- On the one hand, a wisdom tooth extraction may also be recommended. You can also opt to have your wisdom tooth extracted even before it gets infected to prevent pericoronitis.
- However, note that proper oral hygiene and a dental visit will always be the best way to avoid the infection.