Young man talking by smartphone and looking away while suffering from tooth pain at home. - Novato, CAInflamed and painful gum tissue around your wisdom teeth and molars may be signs of pericoronitis. If you leave these symptoms untreated, you risk spreading an infection to your neck, causing jaw spasms. In rare cases, complications can be life-threatening.

But here at Novato Oral Surgery in Novato, California, we specialize in treating pericoronitis to ensure you don’t suffer from severe symptoms. Our oral health professionals have years of experience treating this condition, from conducting complete wisdom teeth extractions to mildly invasive operculum surgery. So be assured that you’re in safe hands.

What Is Pericoronitis?

Pericoronitis is inflamed or swollen gum tissue. While it can happen anywhere, it’s more common in your lower wisdom teeth (i.e., third molars).

Sometimes, a wisdom tooth only partly emerges from your gum. At which point, a flap of gum tissue will cover the partially erupted tooth, creating the perfect environment for bacteria and the build-up of food particles.

The soft tissue growth can become infected when left alone, causing pericoronitis in your third and final set of molars.

What Causes Pericoronitis?

A partially erupted wisdom tooth can cause pericoronitis. The gum flap, otherwise known as the operculum, covering a section of the wisdom tooth stores food pieces that cause swollen tissue and infection.

Bacteria, plaque, and food debris may also become trapped by the soft tissues surrounding a tooth, known as the gingiva. If the accumulated food particles remain, the irritation can lead to pericoronitis.

Sadly, pericoronitis can happen to everyone. But some risk factors can make it more likely, including:

  • Poor oral health
  • Excess gum tissue
  • Respiratory tract infections
  • Pregnancy
  • Stress
  • People in their 20s

What Are The Symptoms of Pericoronitis?

There are two types of pericoronitis — acute pericoronitis (short-term) and chronic pericoronitis (long-term). You may suffer from one or both, depending on how long you leave it untreated.

Acute Pericoronitis

We often describe this as a “rapid flair” since it arrives quickly and typically lasts three to four days. The symptoms include:

  • Pain when swallowing due to the infected gum flap
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Appetite loss
  • Pus discharge
  • Swelling where the gum tissue overlaps
  • Pain causing loss of sleep
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever

Chronic Pericoronitis

When pericoronitis symptoms are left untreated, the progressive condition can develop in your third molars. At this stage, the infection will spread toward the neck, causing chronic symptoms like:

  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Mild or dull ache in the overlapping gum flap
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes

What Are The Treatment Options For Pericoronitis?

Before using home remedies to treat pericoronitis, you must seek a professional diagnosis from our skilled dentist. You might need more than a touch of warm salt water to resolve more severe symptoms.

After a clinical evaluation and the correct diagnosis of pericoronitis, we’ll discuss the types of treatments our oral surgeon provides. Depending on your symptoms of pericoronitis, we may recommend treatments, such as:

  • Proper Cleaning and Salt Water — If your symptoms of pericoronitis are localized, you can often treat it with a saltwater rinse. We tend to flush out any bacteria and particles using an oral rinse beforehand, and you must ensure the partially exposed tooth is kept clean.
  • Minor Oral Surgery — When the inflammation is severe, our maxillofacial surgeon removes the operculum during surgery. We use a laser to reduce swelling and pain.
  • Oral Antibiotics and Pain Relievers — If you’re experiencing a swollen jaw, neck, or cheek, we’ll prescribe antibiotics to get rid of the wisdom tooth infection.
  • Wisdom Tooth Extraction — Once we’ve treated pericoronitis, your wisdom tooth might still struggle to grow normally. In that case, we’ll extract it. The cost of wisdom teeth removal varies, so we’re happy to have a chat about your options here.


The longer you leave it, the more uncomfortable and severe it becomes. So, if you’re experiencing any pericoronitis symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact us at Novato Oral Surgery in Novato, California. Let our highly acclaimed dentists help you live pain-free again.


Can You Prevent Pericoronitis?

Like most conditions, you can take steps to reduce the chance of developing pericoronitis, such as:

  • Conscientious Oral Hygiene — Targeted cleaning around the affected wisdom tooth reduces bacteria and food debris.
  • Regular Dental Visits — Regular check-ups with our experienced team at Novato Oral Surgery ensure early signs are detected and treated early.

Can Pericoronitis Heal Itself?

Unfortunately, pericoronitis won’t heal itself. Therefore, you must treat the condition as soon as possible to prevent severe pericoronitis. If you start noticing symptoms, it’s essential to contact your dentist immediately.

What’s The Prognosis?

The prognosis is excellent once you’ve completed treatment. Generally, pericoronitis resolves between one and three weeks. However, it can reoccur if you leave the original cause untreated.

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