Do You Have A Dental Operculum?

April 24, 2023

A dental “operculum” is the medical term for gum tissue that covers or partially covers the biting surface of a tooth. Another term for it is a pericoronal flap. Typically this condition is temporary while a tooth is erupting. But occasionally, when a tooth doesn’t have enough space to erupt fully, the situation could be permanent and require treatment.

The most susceptible teeth to dental operculums are back molars. As the molar erupts, it pushes the existing gum tissue out of the way. Some of the tissue can snag or get caught on the biting surface, leaving an open flap.

Commonly when wisdom teeth erupt (also called the third molars), they are extremely far back in the mouth with insufficient space and cause dental operculums. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent an operculum, so it’s essential to see your dentist when you first notice one forming. 

Signs and symptoms of a dental operculum

Generally, if you have a dental operculum, you’ll know it. They are usually painful, red and swollen, sometimes even felt when biting down. The tissue is inflamed and more susceptible to bleeding and infection. You may also experience a bad oral odour or a bad taste in your mouth, a swollen cheek or difficulty opening your jaw. These are typically associated with an infection.

Sometimes a dental operculum can clear away on its own, but sometimes it requires treatment in order to keep it clean and prevent infection. 

Treatment for a dental operculum 

Commonly dental operculums will correct on their own when a tooth fully erupts through the gums. Make sure to maintain exceptional oral hygiene with regular brushing and flossing and an anti-bacterial mouthwash. In addition, there are certain tools you can use to help clean underneath the operculum. The first tool is called a sulcabrush, similar to a manual toothbrush with a smaller head. The smaller size allows the bristles access underneath the operculum. The second tool is called a monojet. This device allows you to spray water, salt water or even mouthwash underneath the operculum to help keep it clean and prevent infection. 

In cases where the dental operculum is permanent, such as when wisdom teeth have partially erupted, your dentist may recommend either extracting the tooth if there is no space or cutting back the operculum with a laser or a scalpel. 

If you have any questions about dental operculums, please contact us today to schedule an appointment

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