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Pericoronites And Operculites; Specific Infections

A “typical” pericoronitis is an infection and inflammation of the gum partially covering a tooth (often a wisdom tooth) that tries to pierce or that eruptes. Sometimes a small piece of skin (gum) called a “gill” covers the partially erupted tooth. The fact that a tooth is partially out of the gum creates a gateway for bacteria that can cause infection.


Food debris and bacteria (plaque) can accumulate there and cause infection. These conditions are often very painful and need to be treated. See your dentist as soon as possible to have this problem assessed and treated. He will probably suggest that you remove the part of the gum (operculum) that covers your molar (operculectomy).

He may also prescribe antibiotics if an infection is already well established. Until your dentist can see you, make sure you clean and debride this area well, even if it is painful, to avoid the buildup of plaque and food debris that will only make the problem worse. The term “pericoronitis” comes from “peri” which means “around” as in “periphery” of the tooth and “coronite” which is an adjective relating to the “crown” of the tooth. This condition is most common in young adults when wisdom teeth are trying to pierce (± 17-21 years) but can occur at any age.

A semi-enclosed wisdom tooth is an excellent entry point for infection (pathogens, bacteria, accumulation of various food debris, etc.) and can lead to the development of gum problems (pericoronitis, operculitis), cavities and loss bone (periodontitis to varying degrees) and, as previously mentioned, causing the spread of the infection in a more systemic way, which can have serious consequences, even death.


Here is an example of a situation where a seal could become inflamed and painful. This example describes a problem associated with second molars, but it can happen with any molar including wisdom teeth.

(A, B) The lower second molars erupt in this young 13-year-old patient. The one on the right side (blue circle) has just pierced the gum. Perforation in the gum constitutes a potential entry point for plaque, food debris, etc. if oral hygiene is not adequate.

(B, C) The one on the left is more advanced in its eruption process. The part of the gum that covers the back of the tooth is the operculum (arrow). The hygiene of this patient is excellent so that there is no infection or other associated problem but if the plaque builds up around this heap of skin, the seal may become inflamed, red, swollen … and very painful. In the event of a problem, the operculum can be simply excised (operculectomy).


When these problems arise, either suddenly or gradually, it is important to consult a dentist as soon as possible in order to make a complete assessment of the mouth. A panoramic x-ray can reveal the presence of wisdom teeth when they have not yet erupted or problems that are invisible to the naked eye. Intra-oral x-rays can also be taken at the dental office to obtain more specific details on wisdom teeth that are already in the mouth.


Unlikely or rarer symptoms are symptoms and problems that can affect a person, but the link between these and wisdom teeth has rarely been established, without however concluding that it is impossible to establish. Pain in the ears , when the pain in the jaw connected to the wisdom teeth is very intense. Various headaches and migraines . It should be noted that headaches can have a multitude of causes. Wisdom teeth can be the cause indirectly (the pain in wisdom teeth is very intense, which promotes the onset of headaches). Often the headaches do not go away with the extraction of wisdom teeth.

Significant dental movements , although slight dental movements may occur near the region where the third molars are located. The eruption of wisdom teeth is often accused of causing dental overlap in the lower anterior region because these two phenomena can occur at the same time, but several studies have shown that they are not a significant cause of these dental movements. Find out more .

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