Pericoronitis is a dental disorder in which the gum tissue around the molar teeth becomes swollen and infected. This disorder usually occurs as a result of wisdom teeth, the third and final set of molars that most people get in their late teens or early twenties.
Pericoronitis can develop when wisdom teeth only partially erupt (break through the gum). This allows an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. In cases of pericoronitis, food or plaque (a bacterial film that remains on teeth after eating) may get caught underneath a flap of gum around the tooth. If it remains there, it can irritate the gum and lead to pericoronitis. If the pericoronitis is severe, the swelling and infection may extend beyond the jaw to the cheeks and neck. Symptoms of pericoronitis include:
- Painful infection
- Swelling in the gum tissue (caused by an accumulation of fluid)
- A “bad taste” in the mouth (caused by pus leaking from the gums)
- Swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck
- Difficulty opening the mouth
If the pericoronitis is limited to the tooth (for example, if the pain and swelling has not spread), treat it by rinsing your mouth with warm salt water. You should also make sure that the gum flap has no food trapped under it. If your tooth and jaw or cheek are swollen and painful, you should see your dentist right away. He or she can treat the infection with antibiotics. You can also take pain relievers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. The dentist may also prescribe a pain medication. If the pain and inflammation are severe, or if the pericoronitis recurs, you will need oral surgery to have the gum flap or wisdom tooth removed.