Abscess – Tooth

Abscessed Tooth
Abscessed Tooth

Overview Of Abscess – Tooth

An abscess of the tooth involves the buildup of infected material (otherwise known as pus) in the center of the tooth. This type of infection is almost always caused by bacteria.

Commonly Associated With

Odontogenic abscess, Dental abscess, Dentoalveolar abscess, Periapical abscess, and a Tooth infection

Causes Of Abscess – Tooth

An abscess of the tooth can form due to tooth decay. It can also occur whenever a tooth is chipped, broken, or damaged in some way. Whenever there is an opening in the enamel of the tooth, bacteria can enter and infect the center of the tooth, referred to as the pulp. Infection can then spread from the root of the tooth to the bones supporting the tooth.

This infection results in a buildup of tissue swelling and pus inside the tooth, which then causes pain and discomfort for the person. Decreasing the pressure within the tooth can often relieve the pain, but the infection itself will remain active and continue to spread if not treated. This can cause the destruction of tissue and more severe pain over time.

Symptoms Of Abscess – Tooth

The main symptom of an abscess within the tooth is severe pain associated with that particular tooth. The pain is continuous, and has been described as gnawing, throbbing, shooting, or sharp.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Bad breath
  • Increased sensitivity of the teeth to hot or cold
  • Pain when chewing
  • A bitter taste in the mouth
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands in the neck
  • Swelling of the gums over the infected tooth, which may appear to look like a pimple
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or the feeling of being ill in general
  • A swollen area of the upper or lower jaw, which should be paid attention to immediately, as it is a very serious symptom

Possible Complications

These complications have been known to occur:

  • The infection spreading to the jaw bone
  • An infection of the blood
  • A loss of the tooth
  • The infection spreading to soft tissues
  • The spread of infection to other areas of the body – which in severe cases can cause inflammation of the heart, an abscess of the brain, pneumonia, or other complications

Treatment Of Abscess – Tooth

To overall goal of treatment is to cure the infection, save the affected tooth, and prevent further complications.

A dentist will prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection that caused the abscess in the tooth, if necessary. As for the pain in the tooth, warm salt water rinses have been known to help ease the pain, along with over-the-counter pain medications that can help reduce pain and fever.

If using aspirin, DO NOT place directly onto the tooth or gums, as it can increase irritation of the tissues and lead to ulcers in the mouth.

In more severe cases, a root canal may be recommended in an attempt to save the affected tooth.

If the infection is severe, the tooth may need to be removed, or surgery may be needed to drain the abscess. In very severe cases the patient may need to be admitted to a hospital.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Untreated abscesses of the teeth can worsen and eventually lead to life-threatening complications if not treated. Prompt treatment cures the infection in most cases, and often the tooth can be saved.

When to Contact a Health Care Provider

Contact a dentist if the pain in the tooth is severe and does not go away, or if a bubble (or “pimple”) can be seen on the gums near the affected tooth.

Prevention Of Abscess – Tooth

The best way to reduce the risk of developing a tooth abscess is to treat dental decay as promptly as possible. Any broken or chipped teeth should be examined by a dentist as soon as possible.

Exams and Tests

A dentist will closely examine the patient’s teeth, gums, and mouth in general. When the tooth is tapped by the dentist during the examination, there may be pain in the tooth. Pain can also be increased by closing the mouth or biting down. The patient’s gums may be red and swollen, and can drain a thick material in some cases.

Other tests, such as dental x-rays, may be done to determine which tooth or teeth have abscesses within them.