For many people, getting their wisdom teeth removed is a pretty painless, simple process. A dentist or oral surgeon extracts the teeth before they break through the gums, to reduce the risk of any complications or infection later in life. But, there are a few cases when wisdom teeth removal is performed not as a preventative measure, but because of a severe, unpleasant infection. A condition called pericoronitis can develop when the gum tissue around the wisdom teeth becomes infected and inflamed. Although treatable, the condition can continue to recur if the teeth aren’t completely removed.
It’s important to note that pericoronitis isn’t the same thing as periodontal disease, or gum disease. It only develops around a partially erupted or impacted tooth. Although it is most common around the wisdom teeth, it can also develop in young children who are getting their baby or adult teeth.
What Causes It
Pericoronitis occurs when a tooth only comes in part way and when a portion of gum tissue is left over the tooth. The gum tissue often has an opening that is the perfect place for food to become lodged and for bacteria to accumulate. The bacteria are what are responsible for the infection. As they multiply, the gum becomes more and more inflamed. An abscess can form, which is usually filled with pus. If not treated in a timely way, the pus can spread to other areas of the mouth, spreading the infection.
How Do You Know If You Have It?
While in some cases, impacted wisdom teeth don’t cause any symptoms, when they become infected, symptoms are usually obvious. One sign that your wisdom tooth or teeth may be infected is pain in the area, which can be either mild or very sharp and severe. The gum around the affected tooth might also be tender, swollen and red.
If pus is present, it can give you a bad taste in your mouth or make your breath smell unpleasant. In more severe cases, you might have trouble opening your mouth and might find it very painful and difficult to eat. For some people, the infection can cause a loss of appetite.
Official diagnosis of the infection will come from your dentist. If you still have your wisdom teeth, he or she will most likely be monitoring them at your visits and will know to look for any signs of infection. If any swelling is visible or if it looks as though there might be an infection, your dentist might order an X-ray to confirm that is pericoronitis and not a problem created by gum disease or tooth decay.
While removing the affected wisdom teeth is usually the most effective way to treat the infection, your dentist might choose to try a more conservative option first. The most conservative treatment option is to use a salt water rinse to wash the affected area, flushing out any bacteria and any food pieces that might be trapped in the gum.
Your dentist might give you a course of oral antibiotics to kill the bacteria that are contributing to the infection. Antibiotics can be particularly helpful if the infection is severe and if you are experiencing a great deal of pain. Along with the antibacterial medicine, your dentist might also recommend taking a pain reliever to further reduce any discomfort.
To reduce the chance of the infection recurring, a dentist might decide to remove the piece of gum that is causing part of the trouble. Cutting away the flap of gum will make it easier for you to reach the area when brushing and will reduce the chance of the infection coming back.
Taking the Teeth Out
Removal of the wisdom teeth is often the best way to go when treating pericoronitis. Eliminating the bacteria and removing the gum flap only offer temporary solutions in many cases, as there’s always the risk that the infection will return. Usually, the teeth are removed after the infection is controlled, to prevent it from spreading during the extraction of the teeth.
A dentist will usually make the call to remove the tooth if there’s little chance that it will be able to come in fine on its own. If your wisdom teeth are impacted, for example, they will most likely continue to cause problems if left in your mouth. People have gotten to the point where they no longer need that final set of molars for eating or anything else. There’s no need to leave the tooth alone if it’s proving to cause you pain and discomfort.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo and Dr. William Lamas are now offering wisdom teeth extraction at their Miami practice. Whether your wisdom teeth are causing you trouble or not, it might be worth your time to consider having them removed. Taking a wait-and-see approach can work for some people, but it can also be helpful to be more proactive about your wisdom teeth. To learn more about your options, call (305) 447-1447 to schedule an appointment with the dentists today.