What is an Operculum and How to Keep it Clean

An operculum occurs when a tooth is erupting. A piece of gum tissue stays on the tooth’s biting surface after tooth eruption, making it difficult to keep clean and prone to inflammation/ infection. Often, an operculum occurs when the 2nd molars erupt around 12 years old at the mouth’s back. Still, operculum’s associated with these molars usually heal independently and don’t require further intervention. Operculums are most common with 3rd molars (also called wisdom teeth), and because there is often a lack of space at the back of the mouth for these teeth, the operculum is unable to resolve on its own and may need intervention. If an operculum doesn’t heal on its own and becomes inflamed and infected, it is called pericoronitis.

Common Treatment Options for Operculum’s 

  • Leave it, while keeping it clean, to see if it resolves on its own 
  • Either scalpel off or laser off the tissue from the biting surface of the tooth and let it heal at the correct height 
  • Surgical intervention, especially if it’s a wisdom tooth that doesn’t fit properly into the arch, the wisdom tooth may need extraction 

How to Keep an Operculum Clean 

  • Use a toothbrush (either manual or electric) and make sure to spend an adequate time cleaning around the operculum, letting the bristles of the toothbrush access underneath the flap of gum. 
  • Use a sulcabrush (which is similar to a manual toothbrush but has 1/3rd of the bristles) to access underneath the flap of gum to clean out food debris. 
  • Use a CDA approved mouthwash at least once a day to help reduce the bacteria in the area. 
  • Use a monojet to squirt mouthwash under the flap of gum.
  • Ensure you visit your dentist and dental hygienist at least every six months to keep it clean and check the health of the teeth and gums 
  • If you begin experiencing any pain, soreness or notice it appears red and inflamed, visit your dentist immediately 

If you think you may have an operculum or have any questions about operculums or pericoronitis, we encourage you to contact us today to schedule an appointment. 

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