An Operculum is a piece of gum tissue that overlies the biting surface of a molar tooth during eruption. An operculum typically occurs on the first and second molars for a short while before the tooth erupts fully. It can occur for more extended periods and even be permanent during the eruption of the third molars (wisdom teeth) if there isn’t enough space for them to erupt fully.
It is essential to make sure you are aware of an operculum and adequately clean around it to prevent infection. Use your toothbrush to access the bristles underneath the gum. You can also use a sulcabrush, which is a brush with about 1/3rd of the bristles of a toothbrush, to access underneath the gum. If you start noticing swelling or pain around an operculum, it is essential to see your dentist near you for a check-up.
Pericoronitis occurs when an operculum becomes infected. Since it is easy to get food, debris, and plaque trapped underneath an operculum, they can be prone to inflammation and infection because they are difficult to access and clean. Symptoms of pericoronitis are pain, swelling, bleeding and a bad taste/odour in the mouth. See your dentist immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
Often an operculum will recede with time as the tooth erupts fully. Taking special care to clean the operculum until this happens appropriately is vital. If the operculum does not go away on its own, sometimes the tissue will have to be cut back to expose the tooth entirely. This can be done with either a scalpel or a laser, and the healing time is quick and relatively easy. If the operculum becomes infected, antibiotics may be recommended to eliminate the infection before any treatment can be completed. Once the infection is gone, the tooth may require an extraction (if it is a wisdom tooth), or the operculum must be removed.
If you believe you have an operculum or have any questions about them or pericoronitis, we encourage you to contact our emergency dentist in Ajax today to schedule an appointment.