Pericoronitis: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments

Pericoronitis is a painful dental condition in which your gums become infected and swollen around your third molars or wisdom teeth. It typically occurs in partially impacted molars and most frequently occurs in the lower molars. Here are some of the causes, symptoms, and treatments for pericoronitis.


Pericoronitis often develops when your third molars only partially break through your gum tissue, allowing a space or opening for bacteria to invade the area surrounding the tooth. This can cause an infection when plaque and food particles can get lodged underneath the gum flap that covers the wisdom tooth.

If food and plaque are not removed, the gums can become irritated and infected. Other causes of pericoronitis may include upper respiratory infections, pregnancy, and stress. Severe or untreated pericoronitis can cause a serious infection that can travel to your cheeks, jaw, and neck.  


The most common symptoms of pericoronitis include pain and inflammation in the gum tissue and toothache; however, other symptoms may include bad breath, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, which is caused by the leakage of pus from the gum tissue, lymph node swelling, and trouble opening your mouth or swallowing. If pericoronitis becomes severe, you may develop systemic signs and symptoms, including chills, malaise, body pain, fever, and loss of appetite. 


Localized pericoronitis can be treated by rinsing your mouth out with a warm saltwater solution. After ensuring that your gum flap is free from food particles, swish the saltwater solution around your mouth for a few seconds and then spit it out. 

If you have pain or swelling in your jaw, neck, or cheek, or if you have a fever or body pain, see your family dentist as soon as possible. He or she may prescribe antibiotics to treat a systemic infection.

To relieve pain and swelling, take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen, aspirin, or acetaminophen. If your pain is severe, your dentist may write you a prescription for a stronger pain reliever. If your pericoronitis is severe, your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon to remove the affected tooth and gum flap. 

If you believe you may have pericoronitis, you can make an appointment with your family dentist. The sooner this dental condition is recognized and appropriately treated, the less likely you will be to develop complications such as a severe or systemic infection, chewing problems, soft tissue damage, and tooth loss.