Wisdom Tooth Problems: Diagnosing & Treating Pericoronitis

Wisdom tooth problems are unfortunately common among teens and young adults. Often, the mouth simply doesn’t have enough space for these trouble-prone teeth to erupt properly, causing them to become impacted or stuck in the gums.

wisdom tooth problems

Among the many potential issues, impacted wisdom teeth place you at risk for a condition known as pericoronitis, which is painful inflammation of the nearby gum tissues.

What Causes Pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis is almost always associated with wisdom tooth problems related to impaction. The condition can develop with third molars that erupt only partially or teeth that fail to push through the gums at all.

Most cases of pericoronitis are caused by a gum flap infection. When a wisdom tooth doesn’t fully erupt, it creates a flap of inflamed or swollen gum tissue. Food particles and debris can easily get trapped underneath, which promotes the growth of infection-causing bacteria.

Pericoronitis may also be the result of minor trauma to the gums surrounding impacted wisdom teeth. The irritated gum tissue is susceptible to micro-injuries during chewing, both from the food itself and the opposing teeth.

How Do Oral Surgeons Diagnose Pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis can be diagnosed during a clinical examination. Oral surgeons look for the following signs:

  • Painful, swollen gum tissue near an impacted tooth
  • Discharge of pus or fluid from the gums
  • Bad breath

More advanced cases of pericoronitis may also be accompanied by swollen lymph nodes in the neck, jaw muscle spasms, fever, difficulty opening the mouth and swelling on the affected side of the face.

How Do Oral Surgeons Treat Pericoronitis?

A course of antibiotics, along with frequent rinsing with warm salt water, is usually enough to get rid of pericoronitis. Oral surgeons also advise diligent oral hygiene and eating a soft-food diet to prevent further irritation of the gum tissues. However, as long as the wisdom tooth remains impacted, the condition is likely to return.

For that reason, oral surgeons usually recommend extraction of the impacted tooth, once the pericoronitis is under control. After problematic wisdom teeth are extracted, pericoronitis issues disappear.

With preventive extraction, most wisdom tooth problems can be avoided. If you still have your third molars, visit Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah for a professional examination and treatment from our experienced oral surgeons. Dr. Partridge and Dr. Maxfield are specialists in wisdom tooth management and our experienced team can help ensure your future oral health.

Contact our Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan or Tooele office today to discuss your wisdom tooth problems.