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This Singaporean Dentist Explains The Hidden Risks Of Swollen Gums

They are an integral part of your dental structure, but you may find gums are largely overlooked by many people when it comes to maintenance and hygiene.

Lots of emphasis is (rightfully) placed on brushing your teeth, but it's important not to neglect your gum health too. 

The average Joe (or Jane) who ignores their gum health do so at their own peril -  it may be too late by the time you realise something's wrong.

Pericoronitis, or swollen and inflamed gums, is a surprisingly common condition that a number of people experience at least once in their lifetime. Prosthodontist, Dr Elvin Leong, delved deeper into the problem for readers to learn more about pericoronitis and its effects.

What are the symptoms of pericoronitis?

In its mildest form, pericoronitis causes mild pain, swelling and a bad smell coming from the infected area.

If you're experiencing any one or more of these symptoms, it's time for a visit to the dentist.

The condition is almost always recurrent

It's important to address pericoronitis promptly because while there may be some resolution of the inflammation before it reaches a full-blown infection, it will almost always recur if not treated properly.

Your upper opposing tooth also has a tendency to bite down and irritates the gum flap, which only aggravates the condition. 

Where can pericoronitis usually be found? Answer: The wisdom teeth!

Gum swollen wisdom tooth

Source: Wikipedia

Pericoronitis typically forms around the crown portion of teeth that have not completely emerged.

This is especially common in erupting wisdom teeth that are covered by a gym flap.

Trapped food and bacteria leads to gum infections that can spread to other areas

Because a partially erupted tooth is covered by a gum flap, this means that there's a higher tendency for food and bacteria to be trapped underneath.

The gum flap makes cleaning much harder and this, in turn, inevitably leads to inflammation and ultimately, an infection of the gums. 

Left unchecked, pericoronitis can increase in severity and spread from the affected gum to your cheeks and neck.

At its worst, pericoronitis can be life-threatening!

Other symptoms may follow the growing infection if left unchecked. This could include:

  • A greater amount of swelling which leads to difficulty in opening the mouth (a condition called trismus).
  • Fever, discharge of pus or pain on swallowing

If the infection eventually spreads under the jaw or tongue, neck pain and breathing problems could develop and result in obstruction of the airway (a condition known as Ludwig's Angina).

There's even a possibility of the infection entering your bloodstream (sepsis) which could be life-threatening.


In summary, do not be alarmed as pericoronitis infections are very manageable, as long as it's caught and treated early.

This will prevent the infection from spreading and lessen the risk of complications. If you suspect that you have pericoronitis, contact your dentist as soon as possible.

References: 

1. Periconitis treatment: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19753908

54 views 14 Mar 2019 Medically reviewed by Dr Elvin Leong, last update on 15 Mar 2019
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