Dental Operculum

Wisdom teeth are the last teeth to appear in your mouth. Sometimes, when they start growing, a flap of gum tissue called a dental operculum can cover part of the tooth. This condition is common, but it can become infected and cause pain. In this blog post, we will explain what a dental operculum is and how it can be treated.

What is Dental Operculum?

A dental operculum is a flap of gum tissue that covers the crown of a partially erupted or impacted tooth. This dental condition is often found in teenagers and young adults and is typically related to the eruption of their wisdom teeth.

In most cases, when wisdom teeth emerge, the operculum will move away and recede as the tooth comes in. But if there is not enough space for the tooth, the operculum can still cover part of the tooth. If this happens, complications may arise because it will trap food and bacteria, leading to an increased risk of infection.

Infection of Dental Operculum

The dental operculum can trap food and bacteria, leading to infection. This condition is known as pericoronitis, an inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding a partially erupted or impacted tooth. It is characterized by:

  • Pain
  • Swelling around the tooth
  • Redness of the gum tissue
  • Discharge of pus from the gums
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulties while opening or closing your mouth
  • A foul taste in the mouth
  • Bleeding when brushing teeth or flossing

If the infected dental operculum (pericoronitis) is left untreated, the infection can spread to the surrounding tissue. It also may lead to a more serious condition known as Ludwig’s Angina.

Risk factors

Several factors can increase your risk of developing pericoronitis such as:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Age between 20 to 29.
  • Impacted or partially erupted tooth
  • Periodontal diseases (gingivitis or periodontitis)
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco products
A dental operculum covering a partially erupted wisdom tooth
An operculum covering a partially erupted wisdom tooth.

How Infected Dental Operculum is Treated?

The treatment of the infected dental operculum will depend on the severity of the pericoronitis and the condition of the affected tooth. To cure pericoronitis, your dentist may recommend:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications: Your dentist may recommend over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, to help reduce inflammation and relieve the pain.
  • Professional teeth cleaning: It may be recommended to remove any food debris or bacteria in the area around the affected tooth.
  • Antibiotics: Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help clear up any infection that may be present.
  • Operculuctomy: It may be necessary to surgically remove the operculum to clear up the infection and pain. The procedure is typically done under local anesthesia.
  • Wisdom tooth extraction: In some cases, the dental operculum may grow back after the operculuctomy. In this case, wisdom tooth extraction may be necessary to prevent its recurrence.

Home Treatments

Your dentist may recommend certain home treatments in conjunction with professional treatment to help alleviate the pain and inflammation associated with a dental operculum.

  • Over-the-counter pain medications: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be used to relieve pericoronitis pain and inflammation.
  • Saltwater rinses: Swishing with salt water may help reduce swelling and relieve soreness. Salt water rinses for pericoronitis are one of the most popular home remedies.
  • Good oral hygiene: Brushing and flossing will help keep your mouth clean and reduce bacteria that can cause infection.

Dental Operculum – Conclusion

A dental operculum is a flap of gum tissue covering the crown of a partially erupted or impacted tooth. This gum flap can trap food debris and bacteria, causing pain and inflammation.

The treatment will depend on the severity of the condition and may include antibiotics, surgical removal of the operculum (operculuctomy), and extraction of the tooth. Talk to your dentist to determine the best treatment for you.

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