As early as six months old, our first set of teeth, commonly referred as baby teeth, begins to break through the gums. After a few years, a second set of teeth, known as the adult or permanent teeth, replaces the baby teeth. By the time we reach the age of 17 to 25 years old (or later years), a third set of teeth called the wisdom tooth erupts.
Wisdom teeth come out in four ways — normal, mesioangular, distoangular, and horizontal. However, the third set of molars can also fail to break through the gums in its entirety. When the tooth does not erupt completely, it can result to a dental issue known as pericoronitis.
Getting to Know Pericoronitis
Pericoronitis, which is colloquially known as the “wisdom tooth infection”, happens when the soft tissues around the crown of a partially erupted tooth overlap the chewing surface and lead to inflammation. The partial eruption of the wisdom tooth creates an opening for bacteria to enter and food particles to get stuck.
When such occurs, the bacteria build up and cause an abscess to form under the gum flap or the operculum. The infection can then spread and irritate the gums when untreated, leading to pericoronitis. When the wisdom tooth infection becomes severe, it can reach the jaw, cheeks, and neck.
The infection can either be:
- Chronic – a mild inflammation with no to minor symptoms
- Acute – characterized by intensified, wide-ranged symptoms such as swelling, pain, and fever
Symptoms of Pericoronitis
The indications of the dental problem differ in individuals and dependent on its severity. Among the common symptoms are:
- swollen gums
- loss of appetite
- pain on the oral cavity
- swelling of the lymph nodes
- difficulty in the movement of the jaw and mouth
- bad taste in the mouth
A clinical evaluation, along with these symptoms, helps detect and diagnose pericoronitis. For a proper diagnosis, the dentist will conduct an X-ray and check-up to check the wisdom tooth’s position, assess the mouth’s condition, and check for signs of wisdom tooth infection.
- Look out for symptoms and immediately consult your dentist for proper diagnosis and prescription to relive you from the pain and swelling. He or she will also advice you on your treatment options especially for unmanageable case which can require an oral surgery.
- For severe infection, a wisdom tooth reaction may be recommended to prevent the spread of the infection.
- Practice proper oral hygiene to minimize the risk of bacteria build up. In addition, visiting the dentist at least twice a year remains a good preventive measure for early treatment.