The wisdom teeth, or third molars are the last of the permanent teeth to come in and usually start to appear during the late adolescent years. Because they are located so far in the back of the mouth, the molars are harder to reach with a toothbrush or dental floss and are more prone to bacterial buildup. When this happens it can lead to a condition known as pericoronitis, an inflammation of the gums surrounding an erupting wisdom tooth which creates a kind of overhang of tissue where leftover food particles can be trapped.
Infection of a third molar is a fairly common occurrence. In fact, there is a good chance of our having at least one impacted molar. One theory is that since the human diet has evolved to consist of softer foods there is less chewing required which has led to a deficiency of the jaw muscle. What is more, since the molars are the last to break through the gums, the other teeth have already moved into place and often there is not enough room left. An obstructed molar that can’t fully erupt may become impacted.
Symptoms of pericoronitis may include swollen gum tissue that becomes painful and interferes with the ability to bite down. An adolescent with pericoronitis may also notice a bad taste in his mouth or a foul odor. In some advanced cases, there can be facial swelling or swollen lymph nodes. Effective treatment to relieve symptoms may be as simple as a warm water rinse, or an antibiotic prescription, but symptoms are likely to recur if the tooth doesn’t break through.
The best way to prevent pericoronitis is by making a concerted effort to brush and floss daily and rinsing with warm salt water several times a day. But if the tooth still can’t erupt naturally, it may have to be extracted. If the infection is allowed to persist it can spread to other parts of the mouth.
Call our Aurora Pediatric Dentist at Epic Dentistry for Kids at the first sign of pericoronitis so that it can be treated and controlled asap.