Pericoronitis (from the Greek peri, "around", Latin corona "crown" and -itis, "inflammation") also known as operculitis, is inflammation of the soft tissues surrounding the crown of a partially erupted tooth, including the gingiva (gums) and the dental follicle. The soft tissue covering a partially erupted tooth is known as an operculum, an area which can be difficult to access with normal oral hygiene methods. The synonym operculitis technically refers to inflammation of the operculum alone.
Pericoronitis can develop when wisdom teeth only partially erupt (break through the gum). This allows an opening for bacteria to enter around the tooth and cause an infection. In cases of pericoronitis, food or plaque (a bacterial film that remains on teeth after eating) may get caught underneath a flap of gum around the tooth. If it remains there, it can irritate the gum and lead to pericoronitis. If the pericoronitis is severe, the swelling and infection may extend beyond the jaw to the cheeks and neck.
How Is Pericoronitis Diagnosed?
Your dentist will examine your wisdom teeth to see how they are coming in, and determine if they are partially erupted. He or she may take an X-ray periodically to determine the alignment of the wisdom teeth. Your dentist will also take note of any symptoms such as swelling or infection, and will check for the presence of a gum flap around a wisdom tooth.
How Is Pericoronitis Treated?