An oral infection can be a truly miserable experience. Absolutely no one wants one, and once an oral infection develops, all you want is to be done with the infection as quickly and painlessly as possible. Pericoronitis is one oral infection that can be hard to avoid. Luckily, it is an infection that can be treated. If you have reason to believe you have pericoronitis, you probably are interested in what you can do at home to treat the infection, either while waiting for a dentist appointment or after your dentist appointment. A quick internet search may point you to mouthwash as a potential infection fighter. So, you probably want to know with some certainty: is mouthwash really enough to fight pericoronitis?
What is Pericoronitis?
What is pericoronitis anyway? It’s an infection that occurs in the gums around the wisdom teeth (more precisely referred to as third molars). It’s most common in young people in their twenties. Because the wisdom teeth are the last teeth to erupt (grow in), sometimes there is a lot less room in the mouth for the teeth to break through. If the room is too restricted, the tooth may break through part of the way, leaving a flap of gum tissue covering part of the tooth surface. This flap of bacteria provides the perfect pocket for food to get trapped in. If food accumulates there, bacteria will follow it, irritating the gum tissue and causing an infection. It can be extremely difficult to clean under the flap of gum tissue. Keeping the gum tissue healthy can be complicated further if the teeth above grow in and bite into the tissue while chewing.
The symptoms of a bacterial infection in the mouth share some characteristics with an infection anywhere else in the body. Pain, redness, and swelling in the affected area are common signs of infection. In addition, pericoronitis can have symptoms specific to an oral infection, including bad breath, a bad taste in the mouth, pain with swallowing, lockjaw, and oozing, particularly when chewing. If you have severe pain or fever with other symptoms of an oral infection, you should consult your doctor or dentist to make sure the infection is managed properly.
How Dangerous is Pericoronitis?
That depends. In the early stages and in mild cases, it can cause discomfort and be treated with some success at home. Acute pericoronitis can happen when the tooth is first breaking through the gum, and it usually only lasts a few days while the tooth is first coming in. It’s possible for the infection to become chronic if the conditions that let the pericoronitis develop in the first place, particularly when the tooth never completely breaks through the gums, are not corrected. Like any infection, if you ignore the infection and choose not to treat it, it gets more difficult to get rid of and more dangerous to your overall health. It’s important to take early symptoms seriously and seek treatment promptly for any infection in your mouth (or anywhere else in your body, for that matter).
What About Mouthwash for Pericoronitis?
Mouthwash can be a useful tool in a pericoronitis treatment plan. Simple saltwater rinse can help reduce mild inflammation and is safe to use while you are waiting to see your dentist. If you have pericoronitis from a tooth that has not completely broken through the gums, it’s vital to keep the tooth under the gum flap clean and free of food particles (and the bacteria that thrive on trapped food particles). If you have conditions favorable for developing pericoronitis, using a daily mouthwash as part of your oral care routine can help reduce the likelihood that an infection will develop.
In cases where there is an acute (currently occurring) infection, an antimicrobial mouthwash may be recommended by your dentist to kill the bacteria on the gums and help keep the area clean. If the problems persist and the pericoronitis becomes chronic, it’s likely that the dentist will recommend the removal of the wisdom tooth or oral surgery to remove the flap of gum that is partially covering the tooth surface. In either case, antimicrobial mouthwash may help post-treatment to keep the treated area clean and healthy.
Is mouthwash a perfect cure? Nothing is a perfect cure. But, mouthwash can be a helpful tool in the treatment of pericoronitis.