Tooth Abscesses: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Published on March 26, 2022
Tooth Abscesses Symptoms Causes and Treatments

A tooth abscess can cause a lot of pain, as well as more complex health issues if left untreated. Find out what causes an abscess in your tooth and the type of symptoms to look out for.

Tooth Abscesses: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

A painful condition caused by bacteria entering the teeth or gums, a tooth abscess can lead to serious health problems if it isn’t treated in time and spreads to other areas.

Read on to discover how an abscess forms, what symptoms you might experience, and how our dentists can treat your tooth abscess to remove the infection, relieve your pain, and get you back on track with your oral health.

What is a tooth abscess?

An abscessed tooth - also called a dental abscess - is a small pocket of pus that can occur in different areas of a tooth. Abscesses are caused by a bacterial infection.

Dental abscesses can be painful, with the pain sometimes spreading to your ear or neck. If left untreated, an abscessed tooth can develop into a much more serious condition that can be life-threatening.

There are three common types of tooth abscesses:

● Periapical abscesses, which occur on the tip of a tooth’s root.

● Periodontal abscesses, which form on the gum next to the tooth root and may spread to surrounding tissue and bone.

● Gingival abscesses, which occur on the gums.

What causes an abscessed tooth?

Dental abscesses are the result of a bacterial infection, causing bacteria to get into your teeth or gums. The way in which the bacteria enters will cause the different types of abscesses to form:

With periapical abscesses, bacteria enters the pulp within your teeth, often through a cavity.

Periodontal abscesses are generally caused by bacteria from gum disease, but can also develop as a result of an injury.

In the case of gingival abscesses, a foreign body such as food debris gets embedded in your gums, causing the bacteria to form.

What are the symptoms of a tooth abscess?

If you have an abscessed tooth, the main symptom you’ll notice is a throbbing pain that occurs near the tooth or in your gums. The pain tends to develop suddenly and is likely to worsen over time.

Other symptoms of a dental abscess include:

● Pain that spreads to your ear, jaw, or neck

● Pain that becomes worse when you lie down

● Pain when chewing or biting

● Facial redness and swelling

● Red and swollen gums

● Increased tooth sensitivity

● Discoloured or loose teeth

● Bad breath

● A persistent foul taste in your mouth

● Tender or swollen lymph nodes in your neck or under your jaw

● Fever

How is a tooth abscess treated?

Treatment for a dental abscess will depend on your symptoms and the severity of the abscess. In all cases, the focus of treatment is to remove the infection and relieve pain.

Your dentist may begin by taking a dental x-ray to check whether the bacterial infection has spread to other areas. Following this, treatment options may include the following:

Draining the abscess: Your dentist will drain the pus from the abscess before cleaning it with a saline solution.

● Root canal therapy: Root canal treatment can be used to remove any infected pulp. Your dentist may also cap your tooth with a crown to strengthen it following the root canal.

● Tooth extraction: If the affected tooth is significantly damaged, your dentist may recommend removing it before draining the abscess.

● Antibiotics: Oral antibiotics may be prescribed if the infection has spread to other areas or if you have a compromised immune system.

● Removal of foreign object: If your tooth abscess was caused by a foreign object becoming embedded in your gums, treatment will involve removing it and cleaning the area.

If you experience the symptoms of a tooth abscess, it’s important to see your dentist as soon as possible. You can relieve the pain associated with a dental abscess in the meantime using over-the-counter pain medication such as ibuprofen, as well as rinsing your mouth with warm salt water.

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