The Crucial Facts and Deadly Consequences of Tooth Abscesses

How do you protect your teeth from dental abscesses? What are the symptoms? How is it treated? Read on to find out the answers and more about tooth abscesses.

Crucial Facts of Tooth Abscesses

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Odds are, you’ll never have to deal with the pain, infection, and inconvenience of an abscessed tooth. But are you doing everything you can to prevent it? Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about preventing and treating a tooth abscess.

What is a Abscessed Tooth?

An abscessed tooth is an infection at the root of the tooth or between the gum and a tooth. It creates a sore pocket of tissue that is filled with pus inside the mouth or throat.

The pus is caused by a bacterial infection. Bacteria tends to find its way into the cracks and chips in teeth that are usually a result of tooth decay and erosion. They can also be caused by untreated cavities and poor dental hygiene in general.

Abscesses can form as quickly as 1 or 2 days after the start of an infection. There are two types of dental abscesses:

  • Periodontal abscess
    A periodontal abscess (also called a gum abscess) is a result of an infection in the space between the tooth and gum. Food and debris get caught between the gum and tooth, causing the infection. Severe periodontal disease occurs when bacteria builds up in the bone under the gums.

  • Periapical abscess
    A periapical abscess (also called a tooth-related abscess) happens inside the tooth. This infection occurs when tooth’s nerve is dead or dying, and it shows at the tip of the tooth’s root. It then spreads to the surrounding bone.

Dental abscesses do not go away on their own. Without proper dental treatment, they can grow and last for months or even years. In some instances an abscess will cause little to no pain. Still, most dental abscesses are very painful, which causes people to seek treatment immediately.

Symptoms of Dental Abscesses

Because of the pain associated with dental abscesses, you’ll definitely know when you’re dealing with one. WebMD says that a severe and continuous toothache is a common symptom, along with throbbing and sharp shooting pains in the infected area. Some other symptoms include:

  • Fever

  • Swollen neck glands

  • Pain when chewing

  • Redness and swelling of the gums

  • Bitter taste in the mouth

  • Tenderness in gums

  • Foul breath

  • Sensitivity of the teeth to cold or hot

  • General discomfort and uneasiness

  • An open, draining sore on the side of the gum

  • Swollen area of the upper or lower jaw

Sometimes the toothache will stop because the infection destroys the pulp of your tooth. However, this doesn’t mean that the infection is gone. It will continue to spread if left untreated. If you have any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important that you seek dental help as soon as possible.

Consequences of Dental Abscesses


When left untreated, the dental abscess can cause damage to the surrounding teeth and bone. This can lead to the development of a fistula or “sinus tract,” which is a hollow tunnel formed through the bone and skin. It looks like a pimple and allows for pus to drain, which can leave a strange taste in your mouth.

Most of the pain from an abscess comes from the buildup of pressure at the site of the infection. Although a fistula can drain the pus of the abscess and reduce pressure and pain, it still may not be healed. An infected will remain and need dental treatment.

Cysts can also form as a result of an untreated dental abscess. It’s a fluid filled bubble in the jaw bone. A cyst will sometimes form after a severely damaged tooth is extracted. If a tooth can be saved, getting a root canal is necessary for saving the infected nerve. In the worst case scenario, surgery may be needed to remove the cyst.


Even if an abscess drains without intervention, the bacteria may continue to spread and infect other parts of your mouth and body. When the infection spreads through the head, chest, neck, and/or the entire body, this can lead to a potentially life-threatening complication called sepsis.

Treatment for Tooth Abscess

To diagnose your problem, a dentist will probe your infected tooth with a dental instrument. This will feel painful if you have an abscessed tooth. Your dentist will also inquire if you feel more pain when you close your mouth or bite down. He or she will also check the state of your gums to see if they are swollen and red from infection. Your dentist may also take an x-ray to check for erosion and decay of the bone around the abscess.

Dental Procedure
In order to properly treat an abscessed tooth, your dentist will try to preserve the tooth, destroy the infection, and prevent complications.

The abscess may need draining to get rid of the infection. Root canal therapy is a common procedure used to achieve draining. If there is any diseased root tissue after the infection is eliminated, your dentist may recommend root surgery to remove it. Once the infection is gone and your tooth is treated, a crown is placed over the tooth.

In more serious cases, the tooth may need to be extracted altogether. This allows for drainage through the socket.

Another way to drain the abscess would be through incision. The dentists would make an incision around the swollen gum tissue, allowing for drainage.

To help fight off the infection, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics. This will help the infection from recurring and spreading through your mouth.

Dental Abscess Prevention

Even if you’ve never had a dental abscess or think you’re not at risk for one, it’s still important to know how to prevent this type of infection. After all, it doesn’t hurt to know how to keep your teeth safe from potentially life-threatening issues.

Brush and Floss Regularly
Flossing can seem like another annoying thing to add onto your to-do list. But sticking to a good oral regimen is extremely helpful for preventing dental abscesses, This requires brushing your teeth and flossing on a daily basis.

Professional Dental Cleanings
Don’t miss your dental appointments if you can help it. Having regular professional cleanings and dental checkups will give your teeth the preventative care they need.

Well-balanced diet
Eating healthy has a plethora of benefits to your body, including your oral health. Limiting your intake of sugary and acidic food will lower your risk of tooth decay.

Pain relief

It’s common to experience pain before and after treatment for your dental abscess. One way to reduce pressure and relieve pain is to take an over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen. You dentists may also prescribe you strong pain relief medication as well. Rinsing your mouth with warm water and salt can also help to keep your mouth clean and bring relief to sensitive areas in your mouth.

The best way to prevent a dental abscess is to simply maintain your oral hygiene and get continual dental checkups and cleaning. For information on how to take better care of your teeth and get affordable dental care, you can find more helpful tips on our blog.

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