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What is Tooth Abscess?

An abscess occurs when a bacterial infection causes a pocket of pus to develop in the tooth (periapical abscess) or gums (periodontal abscess). This is a very serious dental condition that can cause severe pain and discomfort, and may have very severe complications if it is not addressed in a timely manner.

What Are The Causes of a Tooth Abscess?

A periapical abscess occurs when bacteria finds its way into the inner tissue of the tooth. This usually happens as a result of a cavity that has gone untreated, or of an injury such as a chipped tooth or improperly performed dental work. The infection can spread and affect more of the tooth over time if it is not treated.

What Are The Signs And Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess?

The most noticeable effect of a tooth abscess is pain and discomfort affecting the tooth in question, which may grow in severity and radiate outward to the jaw or other parts of the neck and head. Pain and discomfort may be more severe when chewing or when the tooth is exposed to hot or cold temperatures. There may be noticeable bad breath, and in severe cases fever or headache may ensue.

How is a Tooth Abscess Diagnosed?

A dentist can diagnose a tooth abscess by doing an examination of the affected tooth. An X-ray may be performed to verify the diagnosis and to evaluate the extent of the infection. If you suspect you have an abscess, it is important that you call your dentist for an appointment immediately.

What Are Possible Treatments For a Tooth Abscess?

Your dentist will first make an incision into the abscess in order to drain the pus. The area will be cleaned, and in the case of a wider-spread infection antibiotics might be prescribed. In some cases, a root canal will need to be performed to restore the tooth. Severe abscesses may render the tooth unsalvageable and necessitate its full removal.

Are There Preventative Steps or Measures To Avoid a Tooth Abscess?

Maintaining proper oral hygiene is essential to preventing cavities and the proliferation of bacteria which can lead to an abscess. Make sure to floss daily and brush your teeth twice a day, and don’t forget to schedule regular cleanings with your dentist every six months.

What Are The Risks If a Tooth Abscess Is Left Untreated?

If an abscess is left untreated, the infection may spread, causing damage to the bone support surrounding the tooth. The longer the infection is allowed to persist, the less likely it is that the tooth will be able to be restored to proper function. Beyond tooth loss, extreme cases may cause the infection to spread to other parts of the body, causing fever and other complications which may even become life-threatening.

Key Takeaways About a Tooth Abscess

An abscess is a bacterial infection which causes buildup of pus in the tooth or gums, usually resulting from an untreated cavity or an injury to the tooth. It can cause toothache and discomfort surrounding the infection. A tooth abscess needs to be drained, and often also requires the use of antibiotics and in some cases a root canal to restore the tooth. Prevention is key – make sure to brush and floss regularly and don’t miss regular checkups and cleanings with your dentist. If you suspect a tooth abscess, you should contact your doctor immediately, as delayed action can result in more serious complications.

Recommended Next Steps For a Tooth Abscess

If you are experiencing dental pain or discomfort, contact your dentist immediately and they will help determine the best course of action for you.

Meet Dr. Christian Chung, D.D.S

Dr. Christian Chung grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland. He moved to New York City and attended New York University where he received both his undergraduate degree and his degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery. Upon graduation, he completed his residency at St. Lukes Roosevelt... Learn More »