Irrigators are particularly useful for cleaning wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth, because they are so far back in the mouth, are hard to see, let alone reach or clean well. The area surrounding them is especially prone to gum infections because, when wisdom teeth are emerging (or haven’t emerged properly), the gums are “in limbo” — not fully shrunken and tightened around the still-emerging third molars — and are usually full of loose pockets that trap all kinds of food and bacteria. When this area gets infected, pericoronitis develops.
Pericoronitis is somewhat similar to gingivitis, except it is specifically centered around one or more wisdom teeth. Unfortunately, it is quite common and is very painful. The symptoms of pericoronitis include redness and swelling in the area, pain, jaw stiffness, slight discharge, bad taste, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck. If left to itself, the infection will spread and become more serious.
Depending on the state of the wisdom tooth’s development and how well it is frequently cleaned, pericoronitis may or may not be a recurring infection. Those with unhealthy diets and poor hygienic habits will be more prone to the infection than those who stay on top of their physical health and daily thorough oral hygiene.
If you are one of many unfortunate battlers against pericoronitis, it is important to remember that cleanliness is priority. The two best recommendations I can make for healing would be frequent irrigation and rinsing. In my office, we could zap it out pretty quickly with ozone gas and a dental laser.
At home, as soon as you start feeling pain and swollenness in the area around the tooth, you need to immediately begin flushing it out with an oral irrigator several times a day (certainly after each meal). I can supply ozonated water to irrigate with, but hydrogen peroxide (don’t swallow!) and a bit of baking soda also work well. Be sure the tip of the irrigator reaches down under the gums in the swollen area. It will be uncomfortable, but if you nip it in the bud, you’ll save yourself far more severe pain down the road.
Along with frequent irrigation, you can also rinse your mouth during the day with a baking soda solution. You only need a pinch (1/8 tsp or less) per mouthful of warm water. This will provide some relief as the infection heals and help keep the rest of your mouth clean.
Brushing and flossing should be done after every meal — which should also consist of healthy foods — if it is not too painful to eat in the first place. Some find that temporarily resorting to liquid foods only (such as homemade smoothies and soups) causes less discomfort and keeps the mouth cleaner. Increasing superfoods to help your immune system along is a good idea.
Following these steps, the infection should resolve itself in a week or two. Yes, an entire week… or two! Keep your wisdom teeth sparkling — pericoronitis is not a pleasant experience that resolves itself overnight!
Dr. Sperbeck, West Los Angeles