Five Things Parents Need To Know About Pericoronitis

The third molars, commonly called the wisdom teeth, are the last teeth that will erupt in your child's mouth. These teeth will generally appear between the ages of 17 and 21. There isn't always enough room in the mouth for these teeth to erupt, and partially-erupted wisdom teeth can lead to an infection known as pericoronitis. Here are five things parents need to know about pericoronitis.

How does pericoronitis develop?

When a wisdom tooth starts to break through the gum tissue, it creates a gap between the top of the tooth and the flap of the gums. Since this gap is very hard to keep clean with a toothbrush, it forms the perfect location for food particles and bacteria-filled plaque to accumulate. In this dark, moist, hard-to-reach location, the bacteria will continue to multiply, and eventually, the surrounding gum tissue will become infected.

What are the signs of pericoronitis?

If your child has pericoronitis, they will complain that the gum tissue around their erupting wisdom teeth hurts. The gums may also be swollen or red due to the infection, and if pus drains into their mouth, you may notice that their breath smells. If you think your child has pericoronitis, take them to a dentist right away.

Is pericoronitis serious?

With prompt dental attention, pericoronitis is fairly routine infection that can be easily treated, but without treatment, it can become quite serious. Left untreated, pericoronitis can progress into a gingival abscess.

Gingival abscesses are pockets of pus within the gums, and they can be quite painful. The pain will continue to increase until the abscess is drained. Like other abscesses inside the mouth, gingival abscesses can also spread to nearby areas and cause skin infections or other complications. Fortunately, this can be avoided with prompt dental treatment.

How do dentists treat pericoronitis?

To treat this infection, your child's dentist will perform a minor surgical procedure to remove the flap of gum tissue that is covering their erupting wisdom tooth. Getting rid of this flap prevents food and bacteria from continuing to build up in the space between the gums and the top of the wisdom tooth.

The dentist will also drain any pus that is present, and an antibiotic will be prescribed to clear up the infection. Once your child has healed, their dentist may recommend scheduling a wisdom tooth extraction procedure to ensure that they don't have any further problems.

How can pericoronitis be prevented?

Once your child's wisdom teeth start to grow in, it's very important that they carefully clean around the erupting tooth. This can be difficult since the wisdom teeth are hard to reach due to their position in the mouth, but remind your child that they need to brush the area. Brushing around the erupting tooth helps to get rid of plaque-filled bacteria which could lead to pericoronitis.

If your child's wisdom teeth are impacted and won't be able to fully erupt into their mouth, it's important to get them removed. While many people think that only wisdom teeth that are causing pain need to be extracted, this is just a myth. Dentists recommend extracting wisdom teeth whenever full eruption is unlikely or impossible, and the best time to do this is before the roots of the wisdom teeth are fully formed, which generally happens by the late teenage years. Removing the wisdom teeth prevents your child from developing pericoronitis later.

If your child's wisdom teeth are starting to erupt through their gums, take them to a dentist to find out if their wisdom teeth will be able to develop normally or if they should be removed to avoid complications. For more information, contact a local dental clinic like Cobbe Dental & Orthodontics