Abscessed Tooth

Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth is an infection in the root of the tooth, often caused by untreated tooth decay. Infection caused by an abscess produces a small pus-filled sore on the gums, as well as tooth pain and a range of symptoms.

An abscess is not treatable at home and should be diagnosed and treated by a dentist. If left without treatment, an abscess can turn into a much worse infection that can spread to other parts of the face and body, puts you at risk for tooth loss, and in rare cases the infection can be fatal.

What are the symptoms and causes of an abscessed tooth?

One of the most apparent signs of a dental abscess is a pocket of pus (looks like a pimple) on the gums; however other signs include pain in the tooth or gums, bad breath, fever and swollen lymph nodes.

Throbbing or shooting pain emanating from a tooth can be the beginning of an abscess. Other symptoms include swelling of the gums or glands, redness of the mouth and/or face, pain while chewing, sensitivity to hot and cold, bad breath, drainage and/or difficulty swallowing.

Causes of an abscess vary from poor dental hygiene to neglected oral conditions such as gum disease, or as the result of direct trauma to the mouth. It’s also not uncommon for an abscess to develop as part of an underlying medical condition, such as an autoimmune disorder or a generally weakened immune system usually due to radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

What are serious complications from a dental abscess?

As the infection from an abscess tooth worsens it’s not uncommon for a patient to suffer from complications such as nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and diarrhea. Sometimes, an abscess can progress to dangerous levels, causing breathing difficulties as swelling begins to obstruct airways.

An infection from an abscessed tooth can spread to the brain, heart, face and jaw. When the infection spreads to the heart, a condition called endocarditis, bacteria from the infection enters the blood stream and produces pockets of bacteria in the inner lining and valves of the heart. Brain abscess occurs when bacteria from the dental abscess infect the brain tissue.

In rare and severe cases, the infection can lead to death. While several pronounced deaths from abscess tooth and other oral infections have come to light in the news throughout the years, there is little data on how many people die from abscess every year.

Keep an eye on these symptoms of an abscess tooth:

  • Pocket of pus on the gums
  • Pain in the tooth or gums
  • Bad breath
  • Fever or chills
  • Swelling in the face or lymph nodes

Can you treat an abscess tooth at home?

A dental abscess is a serious infection and should be treated as such. DO NOT attempt to treat an abscess tooth at home or with over-the-counter remedies.

While, pain can be temporarily alleviated with over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or aspirin, these drugs will not treat the root of the infection. It is important to see your dentist immediately for an abscess tooth. We provide same-day emergency and walk-in dental appointments with our emergency dentists who can quickly relieve tooth pain.

What are serious complications from a dental abscess?

As the infection from an abscess tooth worsens it’s not uncommon for a patient to suffer from complications such as nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and diarrhea. Sometimes, an abscess can progress to dangerous levels, causing breathing difficulties as swelling begins to obstruct airways.

An infection from an abscessed tooth can spread to the brain, heart, face and jaw. When the infection spreads to the heart, a condition called endocarditis, bacteria from the infection enters the blood stream and produces pockets of bacteria in the inner lining and valves of the heart. Brain abscess occurs when bacteria from the dental abscess infect the brain tissue.

In rare and severe cases, the infection can lead to death. While several pronounced deaths from abscess tooth and other oral infections have come to light in the news throughout the years, there is little data on how many people die from abscess every year.

Dental abscess treatment

It’s very important to see your dentist immediately for an abscess tooth. Waiting can cause the infection to worsen or spread. Plus the longer you wait, the more at-risk you become.

An abscess must be professionally drained and the infection treated with antibiotics. Many times an infection will be so severe that the dentist cannot perform treatment on the affected tooth without first treating the infection. Should the abscess rupture on its own, a warm salt water rinse can keep the infection stable and help encourage the wound to drain, but should always be seen by a professional. Often an abscess requires a root canal or a tooth extraction to fully treat the tooth.

How a dental abscess is treated:

  • Professional drainage
  • Antibiotics
  • Root canal
  • Tooth extraction

While waiting for your dental appointment, pain from an abscess may be temporarily alleviated with over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or motrin. However, even if you notice that the pain subsides, the infection associated with a dental abscess will not get better on its own. It must be treated by a dentist to properly drain the pus via root canal. Any subsequent diseased tissue or teeth may also need to be removed or treated before the infected area will fully heal. Should the abscess rupture on its own, a warm salt water rinse can keep the infection stable and help encourage the wound to drain, but an abscess should always be treated by a professional.

Can you treat an abscess tooth at home?

A dental abscess is a serious infection and should be treated as such. DO NOT attempt to treat an abscess tooth at home or with over-the-counter remedies.  While, pain can be temporarily alleviated with over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or aspirin, these drugs will not treat the root of the infection. It is important to see your dentist immediately for an abscess tooth.

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