Woman holding cheek with a toothache.

When it comes to dental emergencies, tooth abscess stands out as both common and potentially severe. Understanding what a tooth abscess is, recognizing its symptoms, and knowing the possible treatment options can make a difference in managing this dental condition effectively.

Here is an in-depth look at tooth abscesses to help you stay informed and prepared.

What is a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess when a pocket of infection forms in a part of the tooth due to a bacterial overgrowth. This pocket is typically filled with pus and can be extremely painful and even dangerous.

There are three types of tooth abscesses. Each type is classified based on its location. A periapical abscess is located below the root. A Periodontal abscess affects the gums at the side of a tooth root. A gingival abscess is more superficial, occurring only in the gum tissue and not affecting the tooth or its adjacent structures directly.

Causes of Tooth Abscesses

An abscess is most commonly caused by a bacterial infection, which can enter the tooth through a dental cavity, chip, or crack and spread to the root. This process can be accelerated by poor dental hygiene, infrequent dental visits, and a diet high in sugar, which promotes dental decay and cavity formation. Furthermore, existing conditions like gum disease can increase the risk of developing a periodontal abscess.

Symptoms to Watch For

Identifying a tooth abscess early is critical in preventing the preserving the tooth as well as preventing the infection from spreadkng. Common symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Severe and persistant toothache.
  • Radiating pain to the jawbone, neck, or ear
  • Fever without other explanation
  • Pain with chewing or biting
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Swelling in the face or cheek
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the jaw or in your neck
  • If the abscess ruptures you may experience a relief of the painful symptoms along with a unpleasant, salty fluid in your mouth

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is advisable to see a dentist immediately.

Treatment Options

When treating a tooth abscess we aim to clear the infection and prevent spread or complications. Preservation of the tooth, when possible, is also a top priority.

  • Draining the Abscess: We may need to make a small cut in the abscess to drain the pus, which alleviates pain and removes some of the infection.
  • Root Canal Treatment: This procedure can save your tooth by draining the abscess and clearing the infected dental pulp. The tooth is then re-built with a filling or crown.
  • Tooth Extraction: Unfortunately, sometimes it is not possible to save the tooth. In this case, it may be necessary to pull the tooth in order to properly treat the infection and prevent it’s spread or additional damage.
  • Antibiotics: If the infection is severe, you may be prescribed antibiotics. Antibiotics may also be necessary if you have a weakened immune system.

Preventing Tooth Abscesses

Prevention is always better than cure, especially with dental abscesses. Good oral hygiene is the first line of defense. This includes twice-daily brushing plus flossing at least once every day.

Additionally, regular dental check-ups and cleanings can catch and address cavities before they escalate into more serious problems. Limiting sugary snacks and drinks also helps reduce the risk of cavities and abscesses.

When to See a Dentist

If you suspect an abscess, see your dentist as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading and to avoid further complications, such as a deeper infection or even a systemic illness, which can lead to death in extreme cases. Early dental intervention will also increase the chances of saving the tooth and reduce the need for more extensive and expensive treatment later on.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms that suggest a tooth abscess, don’t wait. Book an appointment today.