Pericoronitis – a Wisdom Tooth Infection – Overview


What is Pericoronitis or Wisdom tooth infection?

Pericoronitis is also known as wisdom tooth infection. It is an inflammation of the gums (gingiva) and surrounding soft tissues of an incompletely or partially erupted wisdom teeth. It is most commonly associated with mandibular third molars (lower wisdom teeth).

Pericoronitis/Wisdom tooth infection causes

Any tooth erupts into the oral cavity by a break in the gums. Whenever it has partially erupted, it provides a passage between the tooth and the gums, which allows accumulation of food into that passage with no exit point. Long-term accumulation of food and debris into that passage leads to wisdom tooth infection and irritation to the gums, causing swelling of the gums and pain in the affected area. Wisdom teeth erupt anytime after 18 years of age.

Pericoronitis/Wisdom tooth infection Signs and Symptoms

Pericoronitis/wisdom tooth infection signs and symptoms include:

Pain, mainly in wisdom teeth region. It may be radiating in the Head and Neck region.
• Presence of wisdom tooth infection due to food and debris accumulation
Swollen gums and Pus discharge
• Metallic taste
• Inability to open mouth completely due to swelling
• Extra-oral swelling. Severe swelling may cause Ludwig’s angina leads to difficulty in breathing.
• Difficulty in chewing.
• Rise in body temperature

If you find any of the above-mentioned pericoronitis sign and symptoms, you must visit your dentist.

How is Pericoronitis diagnosed? 

Pericoronitis/Wisdom tooth infection can be well diagnosed by a Periodontist. Any dentist can diagnose it but is well advised to get it checked with a Periodontist, a specialized dentist, who deals best with the gum disorders. He will check the position of your incompletely erupted wisdom teeth by taking an intra-oral or extra-oral X-ray. He will also check for the presence of wisdom tooth infection.

Pericoronitis | Wisdom tooth infection | Source: Quizlet
Pericoronitis | Wisdom tooth infection | Source: Quizlet

Pericoronitis/Wisdom tooth infection Treatment

The treatment of pericoronitis/wisdom tooth infection depends on the severity of the inflammation, systemic complication, and advisability of retaining the affected teeth. The dentist will check for the proper position of the wisdom teeth and determine whether the wisdom teeth should be retained or removed. If the wisdom teeth position is unfavorable and has a poor prognosis, it is better advised to get your wisdom teeth removed. The dentist will refer the patient to the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon in case of reoccurrence of pain and swelling and/or the poor prognosis related to affected wisdom teeth, for removal of it. Read out an article on Wisdom teeth removal by Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

If the tooth has to be retained, the first line of treatment for resolving pain and wisdom tooth infection is by irrigating the site with warm water to remove the pus and debris followed by application of topical anesthetic agent. Deep debris is removed with the use of scaler and antibiotics are prescribed. If there is no wisdom tooth infection present, the area is cleaned with no requirement of antibiotics. In the case of wisdom tooth infection, the periodontist will excise the flap of gums overlying the wisdom tooth under local anesthesia. This process is known as Operculectomy. Now a day, Lasers are also used to remove the overlying gum flap.

How can pericoronitis be prevented?

Pericoronitis can be prevented by maintaining good oral hygiene, mainly around the erupting wisdom teeth and preventing accumulation of food and debris under the gums. It is best advised to visit your dentist every six months to maintain good oral hygiene.

Who can best diagnose and handle the case of Pericoronitis or Wisdom tooth infection?

If wisdom teeth are to be retained, a Periodontist and if they are to be extracted Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon can best handle the case of pericoronitis or wisdom tooth infection.


Get you oral check up with your dentist every six months to maintain good oral hygiene and if you find any above-mentioned pericoronitis/wisdom tooth infection symptoms immediately visit your dentist or periodontist.

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