What Is Pericoronitis, and How Does It Affect Your Wisdom Teeth?

With age comes wisdom (in theory, anyway). With age, wisdom teeth can also appear. This is the suspected origin of the name, as the third molar typically doesn't emerge until someone is well into their teens. For many people, their wisdom teeth don't pose any problems, and no intervention will be necessary if the tooth's health is maintained. But when you feel discomfort or twinges of pain emanating from around your wisdom teeth, you might assume that those troublesome teeth will require extraction. This isn't always the case.

Partial Submersion 

It's common for your third molars to not fully erupt from your gums, leading to teeth that are partially submerged (known as impacted wisdom teeth). This can make it difficult to properly clean these teeth, leading to deterioration and infection. In this instance, yes, extraction might prove to be necessary. However, just because there's some discomfort in the region doesn't mean that the tooth has experienced irreversible deterioration.

Your Gum Tissue

Wisdom teeth will often have an irregular gingival margin (where the exposed tooth crown meets the gum tissue). This is because they're often partially submerged, creating a small flap of gum tissue that overlaps the tooth's crown. This tissue formation is known as an operculum, and it can permit the accumulation of bacteria, which sometimes results in a localised inflammation known as pericoronitis.

Treatment Is Important

Treating this type of inflammation is a common aspect of general dentistry, but treatment is important. Not only will quick treatment eliminate your discomfort, but it will prevent the pericoronitis from evolving into an infection that can affect the tooth's roots and surrounding tissues, which can necessitate extraction. 

Treating Pericoronitis

Your dentist will manage your inflammation by removing problematic bacteria. Pain relief is usually handled with over-the-counter medication, although antiseptic (and sometimes antibiotic) treatment will sometimes be administered by your dentist. This often resolves pericoronitis, but your dentist may opt to remove the affected operculum if they suspect that subsequent inflammation is a possibility. This involves a minor surgical procedure to sever the operculum. It might also be that your dentist will recommend extraction of your wisdom teeth as a truly comprehensive measure to safeguard against future pericoronitis or any other complications.

Wisdom teeth can be a source of irritation for a lot of people, and if that irritation should lead to a localised inflammation, it's critical that this inflammation is managed in a timely manner.