If you have painful, swollen gums in the back of your mouth, then you could be suffering from a condition known as pericoronitis. While it is a common condition, without treatment it can lead to more serious problems.
What Is Pericoronitis?
Pericoronitis is a painful condition where the gum tissue around the molars becomes infected and inflamed. It is typically caused by food and bacteria trapped beneath the flap of gum tissue covering a partially erupted tooth. It most commonly occurs among young adults, ages 17-24, whose wisdom teeth are starting to erupt.
While poor oral hygiene is a risk factor for pericoronitis, sometimes the position of the wisdom tooth makes it impossible to prevent accumulation of food and debris.
Do You Have Pericoronitis?
Following are signs of pericoronitis:
- Swollen, tender gums around the molars
- Bad taste or odor
- In severe cases, painful swallowing and difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Severe pericoronitis also can cause fever and swelling in the neck and jaw
What You Should Do
Make an appointment with your dentist at the first signs of pericoronitis. After examining you, your dentist will likely recommend one of the following pericoronitis treatment options:
- Irrigation is typically the first step in treating pericoronitis. Your dentist will likely thoroughly flush the area to remove damaged tissue and pus. You can also continue to rinse your mouth at home with warm salt water to keep the area clean while it heals.
- Your dentist might decide to treat your infection with antibiotics. Be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics.
- Pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, can reduce inflammation and make you more comfortable.
- Using one or more of the above treatment options, pericoronitis usually goes away in about a week. However, if there are underlying problems, such as impacted wisdom teeth, then the condition will return.
- If X-rays show that your wisdom teeth are impacted, decayed, or misaligned, your dentist will recommend tooth extraction once your pericoronitis is under control.
- If tooth extraction is not necessary, your dentist might want to remove the gum flap, especially if other teeth are hitting it when you bite down.
How to Prevent It
As with all things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of treatment.
- Practice good oral hygiene, including brushing at least twice a day.
- Pay particular attention to removing food particles from any erupting wisdom teeth.
- Rinse with an antibacterial rinse after you brush.
- Visit your dentist for twice-yearly check-ups, during which he or she will check on the progress of your wisdom teeth.
While pericoronitis doesn’t cause any long-term effects, if left untreated the infection can spread to other parts of the mouth. If you’re experiencing symptoms of pericoronitis, call our top dentists today to get on the road to treatment.