Tooth Abscess Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

A dental or tooth abscess is pus buildup that forms on the inside of the gums or teeth due to infection. This abscess typically happens as a symptom of bacterial infection. If the soft pulp of the inside of the tooth from within the root canal has been infected with bacteria, one of the indicators of this is the presence of pus. Bacteria reside within plaque, which is a byproduct of food and saliva plus the bacteria in question from within your mouth.

This film sticks to the tooth surface and damaged them and the gums when push comes to shove. Get rid of plaque and reduce your chances for abscess formation. Don’t brush or observe dental hygiene and take your chances with dental abscesses, among other complications.

Fast Facts Regarding Abscess Formation and Spread

Here are some points you should remember when dealing with a tooth abscess.

  • Cause: Bacterial infection is what causes your tooth abscess. To reduce your chances of getting this condition, clean your teeth with brushing, flossing, and gargling with mouthwash.
  • Symptoms: The symptoms of abscesses include fever, a bad taste in your mouth, and pain. You might also have a foul breath. Read below for more details regarding the  signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess.
  • Types: There are three types of abscesses, and they are periapical, periodontal, and gingival. They’re mostly related to infections from your gums as well as the pulp of your teeth.
  • Treatment: In order to treat your dental abscess, you might need to undergo root canal therapy. It’s also a priority to reduce the infection or at the very least isolate it so that you can get rid of it with extraction or pulp removal.
  • Pain Relief: In order to minimize the pain of having a tooth abscess, you’ll need to avoid cold drinks and food as well as brush with a soft-bristle toothbrush. You might also be recommended painkillers, but those only offer temporary symptom relief.

Signs and Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess

The specific signs and symptoms of a dental abscess include the following.

  • Pain
  • Fever
  • Insomnia
  • Issues with swallowing
  • An unwell feeling in general
  • Swelling in your face or cheek
  • Difficulty in opening your mouth
  • Issues with breathing or swallowing
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold food and beverages
  • Pain when touching or biting the affected area
  • Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
  • A foul taste originating from your mouth itself that also smells rotten
  • A sudden rush of salty fluid in your mouth and pain relief once the abscess ruptures
  • Severe, persistent, and throbbing toothache that can radiate al the way to the jawbone, neck, or ear

Dental pain is naturally the main symptom of a tooth abscess. You might undergo a throbbing sort of pain that’s intense, like there’s a second heart where the abscess resides. The pain typically appears all of a sudden then intensifies over the following days or even hours. In several situations or cases, the pain may instead radiate like the sun, ending up on your neck, jawbone, or ear.

Types of Dental Abscess

Dental care and toothache. Young woman achy girl suffering from terrible tooth pain, touching pressing her cheek by hand palm.

As touched upon earlier, here are the three dental abscess types. The abscess type will determine the location and severity of the condition’s symptoms.

  1. Gingival Abscess: The pus is forming only in the tissue of the gingiva or gums. This means that it doesn’t affect the periodontal ligament or the tooth, making it more easily treatable.
  2. Periodontal Abscess: This type of tooth abscess begins in the supporting bone tissue structures of your tooth. It’s usually one of the symptoms of advanced or severe periodontal disease just as gingival abscess means you have gingivitis.
  3. Periapical Abscess: This usually means game over for your affected tooth because this abscess type starts in the soft pulp of the tooth. Once your tooth root and nerves are damaged, you either kill the tooth with a root canal therapy to save it or extract the tooth altogether.

Causes of an Abscess

A dental abscess is a symptom or complication due to the presence of a dental infection. This is why antibiotics are important in helping its treatment. However, its presence suggests that more drastic measures be taken. Bacteria that are usually present in plaque tend to infect and make their way to the tooth via the gums, periodontal pocket, or cavity-filled enamel.

  • Periapical Abscess: Bacteria can swim into your tooth through holes caused by dental caries or tooth decay that form on the enamel or hard outer layer of your teeth. These caries then break down the softer layer of tissue under the enamel known as dentin. Once the decay progresses, the bacteria will eventually penetrate the softest inner pulp of your tooth.

This is where the tooth root and nerves are located, giving life and nutrients to your tooth. You will then suffer from pulpitis, which can then progress to the bone surrounding and supporting the tooth. After the alveolar bone has been infected then you will undergo periapical abscess. This abscess can only be treated by a combination of antibiotics, root canal therapy, and dental surgery.

  • Gingival and Periodontal Abscess: Plaque-based bacteria will first infect the gums, leading to the periodontal disease known as periodontitis. Gingival abscess can form during this time, which is more treatable than its periodontal equivalent. Your gums will undergo inflammation, thus making the surrounding tissue of the tooth root separate from the tooth’s base.

A periodontal pocket, which is a tiny bit of space, is formed whenever the periodontal ligament separates from the tooth root, resulting in loose teeth. This pocket can get quite dirty and hard to clean, resulting in bacterial buildup. Once the pocket buildup worsens, that’s when a periodontal abscess is formed. You can also develop this abscess type due to a dental procedure.

Some dental surgeries or tooth extractions can accidentally cause periodontal pockets or the unintentional separation of periodontal ligaments. Furthermore, using antibiotics in untreated periodontitis that masks abscess symptoms can also result in periodontal abscess. There are also times when damage to the gums can lead to periodontal abscess even if the patient doesn’t have periodontitis at all.

Dentist Treatments for Abscess

Some abscesses might require surgery altogether to remove diseased material altogether before the bacterial infection spreads any further. If you’re suffering from abscess symptoms, you should consult a dentist as soon as possible. This condition can be easily diagnosed or identified by any qualified dentist, to be honest.

  • In Case of Emergency: In particular, people who have breathing problems or swallowing issues due to having a dental abscess should go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital post-haste. On that note, if you cannot see your dentist immediately, you can visit a family doctor instead for help.
  • When Do You Need a Doctor? A doctor can’t treat an abscess; only a dentist can do that. However, he can prescribe medication and advise you on pain management and self-care until a dental professional is available to help you out. A doctor is the fastest way to get your emergency treatment for your tooth infection if necessary, at the very least. So don’t fret about calling the doctor for your dental problem.

As for the treatments on the abscess that only a dentist can provide, here they are.

  • Incision: Once you’ve gotten hold of a dentist or dental surgeon, expect him to cut the abscess out. The pus-producing portion of your mouth should be cut out because it’s full of bacterial infection. The pus also needs to be drained away since it too is bacteria-filled. A local anesthetic will be administered to you to lessen the pain of the operation.
  • Root Canal Therapy: Root canal or endodontic therapy is the recommended treatment for treating and removing a periapical abscess. A dental drill bores a hole into the dead tooth in order to let the pus out. Afterwards, any damaged tissue will be scooped out or sucked up by an appropriate device. A root filling made of inert material is put into the hollow space to prevent further infections from happening.
  • Drainage, Scaling, and Planing: When it comes to treating periodontal abscess or periodontitis, it involves draining the abscess out in order to clean out the periodontal pocket. Meanwhile, the tooth root surface will be smoothened out through planning and scaling for good measure from below the gumline. All of these procedures assist in helping the tooth heal and prevent the occurrence of future infections when push comes to shove.
  • Surgery: Surgical removal of the diseased tissue might be called for by anyone dealing with a recurring infection and periapical abscess. Usually, you’re recommended to take antibiotics before and after undergoing an endodontic operation, but sometimes the bacteria are resistant to a host of antibiotic drugs. You’ll therefore need an oral surgeon to remove the diseased material altogether.

Surgery might also be called for in order to deal with a developing periodontal abscess, particularly when it comes to reshaping the gum tissue and removal of the periodontal pocket. An oral surgeon also does this. If the dental abscess recurs even after root canals and surgery, then there’s no choice but to extract the tooth itself.

Drugs for Abscess Treatment

Pain management pills bought over-the-counter or OTC might be called for when it comes to reducing your suffering as you wait for your dental, gingival, and/or periodontal treatment. Don’t forget to follow the information on the instruction leaflet or packet as carefully as possible.

Painkillers should only be used for medication and symptom relief purposes. They shouldn’t treat the disease. You still need to visit your dentist for the actual treatment.

  • Most Effective Painkillers: Tylenol (paracetamol), ibuprofen, and aspirin are well-known OTC painkillers. Nevertheless, they come with several caveats. Certain types of patients aren’t able to take them., particularly those allergic to them.
  • Ibuprofen, Asthma, and Stomach Ulcer: Don’t take ibuprofen if you’re an asthmatic. In turn, don’t take the drug either if you’ve ever had stomach ulcers or are currently undergoing one as well.
  • Children and Aspirin: If you have children under 16 years of age it’s discouraged to give them aspirin for pain relief. Instead, use something milder like Tylenol or some other brand of paracetamol.
  • Pregnant or Breastfeeding Mothers and Aspirin: If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding you shouldn’t take aspirin either. The aspirin essences can end up with your below-16-years-old child, which should affect him or her negatively as established above.
  • Antibiotics: Because bacteria cause tooth abscess, it stands to reason that antibiotics will likely be prescribed to you in order to keep the infection from spreading far. It can be taken along with painkillers for good measure. Examples of antibiotics include amoxicillin, metronidazole, and erythromycin. Antibiotics aren’t a substitute to a dentist appointment either.

Home Remedies for Tooth Abscesses

You can observe the following actions and techniques in order to relieve the pain of abscess while at home before taking that trip to the dentist, doctor, or drugstore.

  • The affected area shouldn’t be flossed.
  • Use a soft-bristle toothbrush when brushing your teeth.
  • Avoid drinking any food or beverage that is either too hot or cold.
  • Chew on one side of your mouth that’s abscess-free in order to not agitate the infection.

Even though home remedies can alleviate the pain and other symptoms of a dental abscess as they await treatment, it’s important to remember that they’re not substitutes to a healthcare professional.

As always, visit a dentist immediately before any complications can arise from this troubling condition.

The Bottom Line

You should remove plague by proper brushing and regular dental hygiene. You should also floss to remove bits of food from within your teeth for good measure, since bacteria loves feeding on that. Don’t allow the bacteria to spread within the soft tissue of gums or the inside of a tooth with dental cavities. Gargle with antibacterial or antiseptic mouthwash for good measure to prevent any chances of an abscess to form. After all, the cliché of prevention being better than the cure rings true for a reason.

Thantakit International Dental Center is Thailand’s longest established dental center. Situated in Bangkok, our clinic is renowned across the world as a destination for world-class dentistry, with most of our patients flying to us from Australia.

Please contact us today and get a FREE dental consultation.

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