A common dental problem, ‘Pericoronitis’ is caused by an accumulation of bacteria and food that becomes trapped under a flap of gum known as the ‘Operculum’. Pericoronitis is usually associated with wisdom teeth that are partially erupted (only half way through the gum into the mouth) and are often also impacted (lying on their side).
It is very difficult to remove trapped debris from underneath the flap of gum yourself and therefore it can become incredibly painful and quite commonly infected. This can make eating/drinking, talking and even opening your mouth painful in the more severe cases due to swelling and infection (Acute Pericoronitis).
While your dentist can prescribe antibiotics to remedy the infection, if repeated infections and pain/swelling occur, an ‘Operculectomy’ may be beneficial.
An Operculectomy is a minor surgical procedure where the affected soft tissue/ the flap of gum over the wisdom tooth, is cut away, preventing further build-up of debris and plaque, and subsequent inflammation.
The procedure is very simple; Local anaesthetic is given to numb the area and a surgical scalpel is used to remove the tissue. No stiches are usually needed.
Post operatively you should only experience slight soreness in the area, and by doing salt water rinses and eating soft foods for a few days, this will aid quicker healing.
A tender, swollen or infected Operculum (Flap of skin covering a partially erupted tooth- usually wisdom teeth) is carefully cut away, allowing better cleaning of the before partially covered area of tooth, and also prevents a build up of food debris and bacteria which infects this part of the gum.
Ways to prevent food debris, Bacteria and Plaque from building up around partially erupted teeth
- Good Tooth brushing, even when very sore or infected, can help keep debris from food, and limit the amount of plaque that collects in the area
- Using a 'Single tufted Brush', a small firm one-pronged brush around and underneath the flap of gum is a crucial area to clean, especially when sore
- Doing hot salty mouth rinses through out the day, especially after eating! Swish the salt solution around vigorously and tip your head to hold it over the affected area
- Try and use floss to remove food and plaque as best you can- this may be difficult if very swollen, and if so, you may need to come and see your dentist