Pericoronitis is swelling and infection of the gum tissue around the wisdom teeth, the third and final set of molars that usually appear in your late teens or early 20s. It is most common around the lower wisdom teeth.
The main complication of pericoronitis is pain and swelling around the molar. You may also have difficulty biting down or experience lockjaw. In some cases, infection can spread from the affected tooth to other areas of your mouth.
While rare, a person experiencing pericoronitis can develop a life-threatening complication called Ludwig’s Angina, in which the infection spreads into their head and neck. An infection that spreads to the bloodstream, otherwise known as sepsis, is also a rare, life-threatening complication.
Your dentist will take a number of factors into consideration when deciding how to treat your pericoronitis. The three treatment options are:
If the tooth is expected to fully erupt on its own, your dentist may decide to help you manage the symptoms without removing the flap or the tooth. In this case, ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be helpful. Your dentist will also clean the gum tissue around your tooth to prevent buildup of plaque and food particles. They may use local anesthesia to help with the pain during this process.
If you experience swelling or infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics like penicillin or erythromycin.