Tooth Abscess

What is Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is caused by a bacterial infection and it cause a pocket of pus to form in the tooth. There are different kinds of abscesses. If it occurs at the tip of the root it is a perapical abscess.  If it occurs in the gums next to the root of the tooth it is a periodontal abscess.

Periapical tooth abscesses are usually formed when dental cavities go untreated or when there is an injury or because of prior dental work.

An untreated tooth abscess can have serious complications that can even be life threatening.

What are the Symptoms of Tooth Abscess?

Most tooth abscesses come with a toothache that throbs and is ongoing and will not go away. The pain can be felt in the neck, jawbone, and ear. Usually, you will be sensitive to cold or hot temperatures and to chewing or biting.

Other signs include swollen or tender lymph nodes, fever, and swelling of the face or cheek. If the abscess ruptures, you will taste something foul and salty and it smells bad and then there will be relief from the pain.

Tooth Abscess Causes

A tooth abscess happens when bacteria enters the tooth and spreads an infection throughout the tooth and eventually the surrounding areas of the jaw. Anytime the outer surface of a tooth, called the enamel, is breached, a person is open to the possibility of a tooth abscess.

This can happen to different people at different rates, but anyone who has some kind of crack or other openings in their tooth enamel can get an abscess. Any opening, whatever it might happen to be, should be treated as soon as possible since there is a chance that the infection can go to the jaw and cause serious, if not life-threatening issues.

Anyone with a diet that is high in sugar content is also at high risk of developing cavities, which can lead to a tooth abscess.

How is Tooth Abscess Treated?

A tooth abscess is treated with the focus of getting rid of the infection that is causing it.  A dentist can drain the abscess by opening it with a small cut. The area is then washed with saline.  A root canal may be performed to get rid of the infection and make sure the tooth is saved. The dentist drills into the tooth, cuts away the infected pulp, and drains the abscess. The tooth is then filled and sealed and it may be capped.

If the infection is bad enough and the tooth can’t be saved, the abscess will be drained the tooth will be pulled.

Antibiotics are often prescribed if the infection has spread to other teeth or to your jaw. This will prevent it from spreading.

Tooth Abscess Prevention

A tooth abscess is most commonly caused by poor dental hygiene which, in general terms, means not taking good enough care of your teeth. Brushing your teeth at least two times a day as well as flossing can go a long way towards preventing an abscess. Not performing these preventive measures can not only prevent tooth abscesses, but also tooth decay, gum disease, and many other dental and mouth complications.

Another important part of preventing tooth abscesses is regular dental checkups by a dentist and other oral health care professionals. It is with the help of these practitioners that the early warning signals of a tooth abscess can be discovered and effectively treated before a more difficult problem occurs.

Otherwise, even though abscesses can lessen in severity over time, they can reoccur worse than ever later on. Those with a weakened immune system are even more susceptible to the infection problems that can be brought on by a tooth abscess.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 10, 2017