What Is Pericoronitis, What Causes Pericoronitis, and Pericoronitis Treatments

While the third molars (i.e., wisdom teeth) were used by early humans to chew the crunchy foods and tough meats that their diet consisted of, modern man no longer needs these teeth: In addition, our mouths are much smaller than those of our ancestors, which is why removing the wisdom teeth is usually recommended. If the wisdom teeth become impacted, pericoronitis may result.

What is Pericoronitis?

Sometimes, due to lack of room, these third molars become impacted or will only partially erupt through the gums. This partial eruption causes flaps to develop. This condition is referred to as pericoronitis. Once these gum flaps develop, food becomes trapped, which leads to a buildup of bacteria. As the bacteria build up, an infection develops, resulting in inflammation of the soft tissue.

Although pericoronitis can occur on the top or the bottom jaw; however, this condition occurs more frequently on the bottom jaw than on the top. While pericoronitis can develop due to impaction, it can also occur following the surgical procedure that is performed to remove the third molars.

How Common is Pericoronitis?

More than 80 percent of the time pericoronitis occurs when an individual is between the ages of 20 and 29; however, it can develop in people up until the age of 40. This condition develops in both genders equally.

Recognizing Pericoronitis

There are several symptoms that are present when pericoronitis has developed. The intensity of the symptoms an individual experiences depends on how severe the infection is. If an individual has a mild case, he or she may experience some discomfort and/or pain near the affected third molar or surgical site.

A more severe case could cause pain while chewing or inhibit an individual’s ability to open his or her mouth all the way. Some people experience a bad taste in their mouths and/or halitosis (foul-smelling breath). The bad taste may be caused by pus leaking out of the gums and into the mouth. Pericoronitis can be a short-term condition (acute) or a long-term condition (chronic).

Acute Symptoms:

  • Lasts 3 or 4 days
  • Inflammation on the side of the face affected by pericoronitis
  • Severe pain (may lead to loss of sleep)
  • Pain upon swallowing
  • Pus discharge
  • Fever
  • A general feeling of sickness
  • Swollen lymph nodes beneath the chin

Chronic Symptoms:

  • Lasts 1 or 2 days, but continues to recur over a period of months
  • Mild discomfort
  • Dull pain
  • Inflamed gum in the area affected
  • A bad taste in the mouth

Issues known to increase the likelihood of developing pericoronitis:

  • Stress
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Pregnancy
  • Upper respiratory tract infection (caused by a virus or bacteria affecting the sinuses, throat and the nose)

Diagnosing Pericoronitis

Dr. William P. Lamas can diagnose pericoronitis while performing a clinical evaluation of the patient’s mouth. He may also take some X-rays to view the portions of the third molars that are still beneath the gum. An X-ray will allow Dr. Lamas to determine the alignment of these molars as well as to rule out other potential causes of the patient’s pain, including decay.

How is Pericoronitis Treated?

A Salt Water Rinse

Initially, if the patient is experiencing pain in a single tooth and a gum flap is present, he or she should try to look to make sure there is no food trapped beneath the flap. Then, gently rinse his or her mouth, using warm salt water. Until the patient has the opportunity to see Dr. Lamas, rinsing gently with warm salt water after meals and snacks may be helpful.

Dental Visit, Antibiotics and Pain Medication

If your jaw, tooth and/or cheek is painful and swollen, contact Lamas Dental Specialists right away. Dr. William P. Lamas will examine your mouth and if an infection is present, he will address it. He may clean the area and drain any pus that is present.

Dr. Lamas will most likely order antibiotics. Additionally, patients can take over-the-counter medications to reduce inflammation and decrease pain (e.g., ibuprofen or acetaminophen). However, patients should always contact Lamas Dental Specialists before trying to treat pericoronitis with over-the-counter mouth rinses and medications.

Laser Therapy

Dr. William P. Lamas can use a low-level laser to reduce inflammation and decrease a patient’s pain.

Oral Surgery

If the inflammation and/or pain is severe, Dr. Lamas may determine that the third molar must be removed via surgery. After Dr. Lamas removes the third molar and repairs the gum flaps, it is unlikely that pericoronitis will recur.

The Importance of Removing Impacted Third Molars

Once pericoronitis has developed, it is unlikely that Dr. Lamas will be able to save his or her wisdom teeth; however, if the teeth are not impacted, the infection may clear up after the third molars have finished erupting. Impacted teeth must be removed because if they are left intact, they usually cause additional problems later on.

Sedation Options During Surgery to Remove Wisdom Teeth

When Dr. William P. Lamas removes a patient’s third molars, he uses either a local anesthetic with sedation or just a local anesthetic. If just a local anesthetic is used, the patient remains awake during the procedure. Dr. Lamas determines which of these options will serve the patient best based on the individual’s preference as well as the complexity of the surgical procedure. For example, if a patient is only having one wisdom tooth removed, he or she may opt to remain awake during the surgical procedure; however, if more than one tooth is being removed, sedation may be beneficial.

Although patients frequently complain of pain in one of their third molars and consider only having the one tooth addressed, sometimes removing all the wisdom teeth during the same surgical session makes sense. This will eliminate the need for surgical intervention in the future, which reduces cost and shortens the amount of time spent recovering. That said, at Lamas Dental Specialists, we always adhere to our patients’ wishes.

What to Expect Following Surgery

Initially, it may seem as if removing the third molars has elevated the problem; however, this is not the case. Swelling and bleeding after surgery should be expected.

Dr. Lamas places gauze in the areas where the teeth were removed and requests that the patient apply pressure to these areas by biting down. The gauze is used to soak up the blood: Once the gauze is saturated, the patient replaces it with a new piece.


Dislodging the blood clot, which is a natural part of the healing process, that has formed over the sockets left behind can lead to complications; therefore, in the days following surgery, patients must treat the surgical areas very gently. As such, Dr. William P. Lamas provides his patients with a list of the foods that are okay to eat. During the initial healing process, patients should avoid crunchy foods, spicy foods and very hot foods.

To decrease the risk of complications and to keep the infection from spreading, it is crucial that pericoronitis is treated swiftly; therefore, if you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with pericoronitis, contact Lamas Dental Specialists today at 305.440.4114 to schedule an appointment with Dr. William P. Lamas.