What is a dental abscess?
A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can form inside the teeth, in the gum, or in the bone that holds the teeth in place. It is caused by a bacterial infection.
An abscess at the end of a tooth is called a periapical abscess. An abscess in the gum is called a periodontal abscess.
Dental abscesses are often painful when acute, but can be pain free when chronic in nature. A chronic abscess may not result in pain but will often have a draining infection, presenting as a ‘bubble’ on the gum. If left un-treated however, a chronic abscess can become acute at any point. In either case, they should be looked at by a dentist as soon as possible.
It is also important to get help as soon as possible because abscesses don’t go away on their own. They can sometimes spread to other parts of the body and make you ill.
Signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess
Signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess may include:
- Severe, persistent, throbbing and spontaneous toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
- Pain that’s worse when lying down, which may disturb your sleep
- A tender, discoloured and/or loose tooth
- A high temperature (fever) and general feeling of un-wellness
- Redness and Swelling in your face or cheek
- Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
- Bad breath and/or an unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Difficulty opening your mouth and swallowing or breathing.
What causes dental abscesses?
A periapical tooth abscess usually occurs as a result of an untreated dental cavity, an injury or prior dental work.
A periapical tooth abscess occurs when bacteria invade the dental pulp — the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. Bacteria enter through either a dental cavity or a chip or crack in the tooth and spread all the way down to the root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root.
A periodontal (gum) abscess usually occurs as a result of advanced gum disease (see section on gum disease).
Preventing or promptly treating tooth decay and gum disease is essential to preventing a tooth abscess. Take good care of your teeth to avoid tooth decay:
- Use fluoridated drinking water.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between your teeth on a daily basis.
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or whenever the bristles are frayed.
- Eat healthy food, limiting sugary items and between-meal snacks.
- Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and professional cleanings.
- Consider using an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth rinse to add an extra layer of protection against tooth decay.
How can the247dentist help with a dental abscess?
Dental abscesses are treated by removing the source of the infection and draining away the pus. The dentist will treat the abscess differently depending on the type of abscess, with treatment ranging from cleaning the gum, draining the abscess, initiating root canal treatment, providing antibiotics or extracting the tooth in question.
Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can lead to serious, even life-threatening, complications. The best thing to do is attend the dentist as soon as possible to have the abscess treated.