Pericoronitis Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
Young woman holding her cheek feeling pericoronitis symptoms and waiting to receive a pericoronitis treatment plan.
Acute pericoronitis is an inflammation of the soft tissue surrounding a partially erupted tooth

Wisdom teeth (the third molars) are no one’s favorite teeth. They are painful when they finally emerge and can turn into a daily nuisance. Worse, if wisdom teeth do not fully erupt, they can cause.

To avoid this uncomfortable condition, it is best to schedule a Miami wisdom teeth removal procedure with Dr. John Paul Gallardo at Gallardo Periodontics, Implant Dentistry, and IV Sedation as soon as possible.

What is Pericoronitis?

While many people can have their wisdom teeth taken out in a simple extraction surgery without any issues or infection, some patients develop pericoronitis. Pericoronitis is a medical condition characterized by an infection in the area surrounding one or more wisdom teeth. It often develops when the teeth become impacted or are not able to fully erupt.

As wisdom teeth begin to emerge, the gum is very sensitive and prone to infection. If patients do not maintain proper oral hygiene, the gum tissue can become swollen and infected over time.

Sometimes, the gum breaks in the area near the impacted wisdom tooth. Food can get trapped in these gaps, creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. It is most common when the wisdom teeth do not come in all the way, leaving a small opening vulnerable to oral bacteria.

Pericoronitis can be extremely uncomfortable, resulting in the swelling of the gums near the wisdom teeth. Most general dentists recommend getting the wisdom teeth out to avoid pericoronitis from occurring in the first place.

What Causes Pericoronitis?

Wisdom teeth love to cause trouble. For many people, they come in just fine, while for others, they never erupt at all, or come in partway. Some patients’ wisdom teeth can even become impacted. Pericoronitis occurs when a tooth only comes in a part way and excess gum tissue continues to cover the tooth.

As wisdom teeth come in, the gum tissue often develops an opening that is the perfect place for food debris to become lodged and for bacteria to accumulate. These bacteria are responsible for the infection. As they multiply, the gum becomes more inflamed.

An abscess can form, which is usually filled with pus. If not treated promptly, the pus can spread to other areas of the mouth and spread the infection.

What are the Signs of Pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis has several symptoms. The severity of the infection determines the intensity of the symptoms. In a mild case, a person might have a mild or dull ache and discomfort near the affected wisdom teeth. In more severe pericoronitis cases, the pain can make it difficult to chew or open the mouth all the way.

Young woman holding the drawing of teeth over her mouth symbolizing the signs of infection that advanced pericoronitis may intale.
The infected tissues in pericoronitis can lead to pain, swelling, and difficulty opening the mouth.

People with pericoronitis may experience severe pain, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, swollen lymph nodes, and even swelling in the jaw, cheeks, and neck if the condition is advanced enough. Although pericoronitis can develop on either side of the mouth and the top or bottom rows, it is more common near the bottom wisdom teeth.

Some people develop bad breath or an unpleasant taste in their mouths due to the pus that may develop. Pus from the infection can leak out of the gums, leaving a bad taste behind.

The infection can then spread to other areas, such as the lymph nodes. The symptoms of pericoronitis can include swollen glands, fever, and a general feeling of malaise.

Treatment for Pericoronitis

The condition can be extremely painful and disruptive to everyday life, so patients must seek treatment as soon as they notice symptoms of pericoronitis. If found early, it can be easier to clean the area and remove bacteria, preventing discomfort and inconvenience.

Treating pericoronitis depends on how severe it is. Patients with mild pericoronitis find relief by rinsing their mouths with saline (warm salt water) or mouthwash. Aside from a Warm Salt-Water Rinse you can use over-the-counter painkillers to deal with any discomfort that may arise. If the wisdom tooth infection is severe, a licensed dentist might prescribe antibiotics to clear it up.

Chronic pericoronitis may require additional treatment, including oral antibiotics. Ibuprofen, a counter pain reliever that also reduces swelling of gum tissue, can help patients feel more comfortable during the treatment process.

For patients with pericoronitis, oral surgery is the best option. It is both a treatment and a preventative. An oral surgeon can remove the flap of gum tissue from the back of the mouth to prevent food and bacteria from getting lodged in it. Another option is to have the wisdom teeth removed entirely.

Removing the wisdom teeth with Pericoronitis

Pericoronitis can make it challenging for a surgeon to perform a wisdom tooth extraction. Sometimes, the infection can clear up and not return once the teeth have fully erupted. However, wisdom teeth can still cause further problems inside the mouth.

A patient ideally needs a local anesthetic or sedation with an anesthetic for wisdom tooth removal surgery. It depends on the patient’s preference and the surgery itself. If the surgical procedure is complicated, the patient might prefer sedation for wisdom teeth extraction in Miami.

Treating Pericoronitis with Oral Surgery

Most oral surgeons suggest that patients have all their wisdom teeth removed in one surgical procedure. It reduces the chances of the third molars causing trouble in the future. One-time multiple wisdom tooth removal in Miami is more affordable and involves less recovery time overall.

Female patient getting relieve from pericoronitis symptoms by an emergency dentist.
Dental surgery is a common treatment for pericoronitis, as it can help to remove infected tissue

Having a wisdom tooth taken out makes some patients feel like their problems are suddenly worse, at least initially. However, swelling and bleeding are common side effects that will subside. The surgeon will give the patient gauze to bite down on to absorb any blood.

Post-surgery Care for Pericoronitis

Surgeons also advise patients to treat the area around the wisdom teeth with gentle care post-surgery. Doing so will help patients avoid dislodging the blood clot that forms a necessary part of healing. Patients also receive a list of foods that are OK to eat after the surgery. It is best to avoid certain foods, such as spicy, crunchy, and hot foods for a while.

The good news is that once the wisdom teeth are gone, the risk for recurrent pericoronitis drops significantly. It is rare for a person to have a recurring infection once the wisdom teeth are taken out and the gum flap repaired. Once patients heal from the surgery, their oral health will be much better overall.

Amazing! Removed my 4 wisdom teeth, had no pain and didn't get swollen at all after.

  • Star full Star full Star full Star full Star full 5 stars
  • Yovanna Ventura

Pericoronitis Risks and Complications if Left Untreated

Leaving pericoronitis untreated can lead to several risks and potential complications. These include:

  1. Increased pain and discomfort: Pericoronitis is already a painful condition, but leaving it untreated can cause the infection to worsen, leading to more intense pain and discomfort.
  2. Swelling and inflammation: The infected gum tissue around the wisdom tooth can become increasingly swollen and inflamed if left untreated, making it difficult to eat, speak, or even open your mouth fully.
  3. Abscess formation: Without proper treatment, pericoronitis can progress to form an abscess, which is a pocket of pus that develops as a result of the infection. This can be extremely painful and may require additional treatment such as drainage or antibiotics.
  4. Spread of infection: If the infection from pericoronitis spreads beyond the gum tissue, it can potentially affect other areas of the mouth, jaw, or even the bloodstream. This can lead to more serious health complications if not addressed promptly.
  5. Damage to surrounding teeth: Chronic pericoronitis can also cause damage to the adjacent teeth by promoting decay or gum disease in the surrounding area.
  6. Recurrence of infections: If pericoronitis is not properly treated or if the underlying issue (such as impacted wisdom teeth) is not addressed, there is a higher risk of recurrent infections in the future.

Because of this, patients suffering from pericoronitis should try to treat it immediately. The side effects of gum disease can cause long-term problems if proper medical treatment is not sought promptly.

Severe infection and swelling can lead to trismus, which is the term for difficulty in opening the mouth properly. If the patient bites into the swollen gum tissues, it can hurt the gum and increase the pain. The lymph nodes can swell, the patient can get feverish, and the issue can become very serious.

If the infection spreads further under the tongue, it can clog the airway (soft-tissue blockage) and prevent breathing. In a worst-case scenario, the infection can also reach the patient’s bloodstream.

Pericoronitis Prevention

To prevent pericoronitis, it is important to practice good oral hygiene habits. This includes:

  1. Regularly brushing and flossing your teeth to remove food particles and bacteria that can contribute to gum infections.
  2. Visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings to ensure proper oral health.
  3. Avoid smoking or using tobacco products, as they can increase the risk of gum disease.
  4. Be cautious with sharp or hard foods that can irritate the gums around wisdom teeth.
  5. If you have partially erupted wisdom teeth, consider having them removed by an oral surgeon to prevent future issues with pericoronitis.

But the best way to prevent pericoronitis is to remove the wisdom teeth at an early age. People get their wisdom teeth between their late teens and early twenties and often opt for surgical removal right away as these molars are challenging to maintain.

By removing the wisdom teeth at the right time, patients can enjoy minimal gum problems and steer clear of developing pericoronitis. Patients should keep in mind that it is easy to remove fully-erupted wisdom teeth surgically. The process can get complicated if the teeth face any blockage and become prone to gum infections.

Removing the third molars reduces the risk of bacterial infection from stuck food particles and plaque. Most well-known surgeons recommend wisdom teeth removal Miami even if the patient does not have a history of pericoronitis.

Talk to an oral surgeon about Pericoronitis today

If your dentist recommends wisdom tooth removal for your oral health, schedule with a dental surgeon today! Dr. John Paul Gallardo at Gallardo in Miami, Florida, is an expert in oral surgeries, especially wisdom tooth removal. Patients can schedule an appointment by calling 305-447-1447.