Pericoronitis and Wisdom Teeth
Do all wisdom teeth need to be extracted?
A soft-tissue growth over a partially erupted wisdom tooth is referred to as an operculum. If bacteria become trapped under the operculum, an infection called pericoronitis can develop.
Pericoronitis is one of the most common indications for emergency extraction of a wisdom tooth and typically happens when there isn't enough room for all of the teeth in the lower jaw.
What is pericoronitis?
Pericoronitis is inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding the crown portion of a tooth. Pericoronitis usually affects the lower third molar (wisdom) tooth where gum tissue overlaps the chewing surface of the tooth. Pericoronitis can be either chronic or acute. Chronic pericoronitis is a mild persistent inflammation of the area. Acute pericoronitis is when the symptoms intensify to fever, swelling, and pain, which indicate a spreading infection.
Pericoronitis is differentiated from gum disease (or periodontitis) in that it occurs specifically around a partially erupted tooth where the tooth has not completely emerged from the gum overlying it. The cause of this condition is similar to the formation of a gum abscess in periodontitis by the entrapment of debris under the gum tissue.
What causes pericoronitis?
The primary cause for pericoronitis is accumulation of bacteria. Usually, the tooth is only partially exposed (erupted) and has excess gum tissue that overlaps the tooth. Bacteria and food debris gets trapped in the space between the tooth and the overlapping gum. This overlapping gum is called an "operculum." Active infection is associated with an abscess that contains pus, which has the ability to spread if left unattended.
are risk factors for pericoronitis?
Most commonly, pericoronitis affects young adults in their mid-20s who are experiencing poorly erupting wisdom teeth. Risk factors for pericoronitis include the presence of excess gum tissue (operculum) overlying the wisdom tooth and difficult access to the wisdom teeth for proper cleaning.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/17/2016