Dental Abscess: symptoms, causes, and treatment
Your teeth and gums need to be cleaned properly after every meal you have. Regular brushing and flossing will improve your oral and overall health and decrease your chances of developing oral diseases and the painful consequences. Consider routine dental check-ups and clean.
Dental plaque is a sticky film of bacteria forming on the teeth after eating and drinking sugary or starchy foods. If not removed properly and regularly, buildup plaque can cause infection by penetrating below the gum line. This bacterial will damage your teeth and gums and finally will lead to an abscess.
A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can be caused by a bacterial infection inside the teeth or gums.
Generally, improper oral hygiene, being careless about removing dental plaque from your teeth, and a diet high in sugar can increase your risk of developing a tooth abscess.
What are the most common types of dental abscesses?
Dental abscesses can form at the tip of a tooth’s root, called a periapical abscess, or on the gums, called a periodontal abscess.
A periapical abscess originates from the tooth’s pulp; it affects the inside of a tooth or/and its surrounding structures.
A periapical abscess happens as a result of bacteria invasion to the dental pulp. An untreated cavity or a chipped tooth will let bacteria inside the tooth, and in case this bacterial infection finds its way to the root of the tooth, it will cause the pulp to be swollen and inflamed. The inflammation of the pulp can eventually cause the tooth’s nerves to die and increase the risk of an abscess.
Periapical abscesses can be the result of severe, long-term “pulpitis,” which is the inflammation of the dental pulp.
The dental pulp is the innermost layer of each tooth that contains specialized cells, living connective tissue, tiny blood vessels, and large nerves.
Causes of tooth abscess
The following factors may all be the causes of a periapical abscess:
- Tooth decay
- Untreated dental cavities
- A previous failed dental work
Children are more prone to developing periapical abscesses, specifically those with poor dental hygiene, Dr Ellie Nadian a paediatric dentist in Brisbane says.
Symptoms of a periapical abscess
- being sensitive to cold or hot temperatures
- feeling sensitivity or tenderness while biting or chewing
- throbbing and persistent pain in your tooth
- severe toothache that can extend to your neck, ear, and jaw
- having difficulty swallowing
- swollen face or cheeks
A periodontal abscess, also known as a lateral abscess, refers to a collection of pus within the gum tissues.
Periodontal abscesses can be considered a complication of gum disease; however, injuries can also lead to this type of abscess.
Periodontal Pockets refer to spaces surrounding a tooth below the gum line. Infection-causing bacteria can enter these openings and lead to oral infections like “periodontitis,” a severe stage of gum disease. In some cases, periodontitis can be the cause of gum abscesses.
- Pre-existing periodontal pockets may increase the risk of developing periodontal abscesses.
- Periodontal abscesses usually originate in the periodontium and the alveolar bone.
- A periodontal abscess is a painful dental condition that affects the bone next to the tooth and needs urgent oral care; otherwise, it will lead to more serious oral issues.
- Poor oral hygiene puts you at higher risks of periodontitis and eventually periodontal abscesses.
The pain from a periodontal abscess may:
- start suddenly and gets worse if you apply pressure on the affected tooth
- be so intense, deep, and throbbing in some cases
- be painless or less severe than periapical abscesses
Symptoms of a periodontal abscess
- observing redness and swelling in the affected area
- having a loose tooth (tooth mobility)
- pus discharge
- experiencing an unpleasant taste or smell due to pus discharge
- pain or tenderness while chewing
The pain from an abscess
Although a dental abscess may not always cause pain, it needs to be checked out by a dental expert.
The pain from a dental abscess:
- can radiate to the jawbone, neck, or ear
- maybe mild or severe
- can be intense and persistent
- may happen suddenly and worsen gradually
- may make it difficult for you to sleep at night
Pain management for a dental abscess
Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to drain the infection and prevent further spreading. The dental professional may decide to prescribe one of these antibiotics to treat your tooth abscess: Penicillin, Amoxicillin, Cefoxitin, Azithromycin, and Metronidazole.
The most commonly prescribed antibiotic for an abscess is usually Penicillin. If the patient is allergic to Amoxicillin and Penicillin, the dentist may prescribe Clindamycin. ALWAYS consult with a medical practitioner, your dentist or an after hour home doctor.
Does an abscess go away on its own?
No! Dental abscesses will not go away on their own, and they need to be addressed as soon as you spot signs.
Your dentist will do a thorough oral examination to identify the symptoms and decide on the best treatment option.
Your dental expert may ask for a dental X-Ray to look for signs of gum disease, bone loss, or infected pulp.
Dental X-Rays will also assist dentists in locating the precise size and location of the abscess and whether the infection has spread further in the mouth.
How to treat a dental abscess
How is an abscess treated?
Depending on the type of the abscess, the treatment option may differ.
Draining out the pus
Generally, dentists will get rid of the infection by creating a small cut into the abscess to drain out the pus. The area will then be washed and cleaned using a saline solution.
A Root Canal Procedure
Performing a root canal will help with eliminating the infection by drilling down into your tooth and removing any infected pulp to drain the pus. After removing the pulpal tissue, the tooth’s pulp chamber and root canals will be filled and sealed.
To make your tooth stronger, the dentist may use a dental crown to cap your tooth. (in a separate appointment)
In case the affected tooth is too damaged, it cannot be saved by performing a root canal, and tooth extraction will be needed. An emergency dentist near Sunnybank can have the damaged tooth extracted and then drain the abscess.
Dentists will prescribe oral antibiotics if the patient has a weakened immune system or the infection has affected other parts as well, such as nearby teeth, jaw, or other areas.
What relieves tooth abscess pain?
Are there any home remedies for a dental abscess?
Some special home remedies may help relieve the pain from a dental abscess; however, they won’t help with healing the abscess and getting rid of the pus. Therefore, you will have to visit a dentist to seek professional oral care for your dental abscess.
The following tips may temporarily help with the pain:
- Rinsing warm saltwater; swish for about 2 minutes and repeat 3 times a day
- Rinsing a mixture of saltwater with a ½ tablespoon of baking soda; swish for about 2 minutes and repeat 3 times a day
- Placing cool peppermint tea bags; the cold temperature might alleviate the pain
- Using Hydrogen Peroxide for its antibacterial properties
- Placing a paste of crushed clove of garlic on the affected tooth
- Placing cold compress against the affected area
- Using oregano essential oil and clove essential oil for their anti-inflammatory properties
How to prevent a dental abscess?
- Practicing proper oral hygiene is essential in keeping your teeth and gums healthy and preventing dental abscesses.
- Brush your teeth twice daily and floss them regularly.
- Make sure you are using fluoride toothpaste.
- Make sure you clean the areas between your teeth (you can use interdental cleaners)
- Take care of any tooth decay or untreated cavities.
- Use a fluoride mouth rinse to prevent tooth decay.
- Avoid eating too many sugary foods and drinks.
- Stay away from tobacco products as much as possible.
- Do not ignore your regular dental checkups.
What happens if my abscess is left untreated?
Dental abscesses need to be treated by dental experts as soon as possible. An untreated dental abscess can cause you pain and discomfort and lead to other oral complications. The infection may spread from the affected area to other parts of your body like the jaw, neck, head, and even brain.
Sepsis, which is a life-threatening complication of infections, can occur as a result of untreated abscesses. (in rare instances)
Are dental abscesses contagious?
Dental abscesses are not contagious and will not transfer from a person to another like from a mother to a child Dr Soha Sharif says.
What is the fastest way to get rid of a tooth infection?
The only safe and effective way is to refer to a dental professional. Home remedies and over-the-counter pain relievers are all temporary solutions and help alleviate the pain. However, to get rid of the infection, you need to see a dentist so they can prescribe antibiotics if they see fit or perform other dental procedures to drain the pus.
Is an abscess a dental emergency?
As a matter of fact, yes! An abscessed tooth is a serious dental emergency and needs to be taken care of by dental experts as soon as possible. It is imperative to seek treatment whenever you see signs of a dental abscess.
Can you die from a dental abscess?
As mentioned before, an abscessed tooth is caused because of bacterial infection. The accumulated pus can spread from the abscessed area through the bloodstream and affect other body organs if not addressed soon.
An untreated abscessed tooth can lead to many dangerous complications, like brain infection, damage to the jawbone, tooth loss, sinus involvement, and even death if the infection spreads to your heart, lung, and brain.
Another complication of an untreated abscess that can lead to death can be Ludwig’s Angina, which occurs when the floor of the mouth becomes swollen and blocks the airway. The person may suffocate and die because of airway obstruction.
How do I know if my tooth abscess is spreading?
If you have a dental abscess and you witness these signs, chances are the infection is spreading to other parts of your body.
Seek dental treatment promptly if you observe the following signs:
- swollen painful gums
- fever or increased body temperature
- feeling dehydrated
- swollen face
- stiff neck
- having sore throat
- fatigue or feeling generally unwell
- experiencing increased heart and breathing rate
Can a tooth abscess go away without antibiotics?
An abscess will not go away without proper treatment. If the pus has not spread to nearby teeth or jaw, antibiotics may not be necessary. Typically, oral antibiotics are prescribed after the pus to ensure no more bacteria are left in the area. ALWAYS ask for medical advice.
Will a tooth abscess drain on its own with antibiotics?
No! Your local Dentist may prescribe antibiotics after getting rid of the infection and draining the pus. Therefore, antibiotics alone will not work on dental abscesses. An abscess needs to be treated with root canal therapy or other dental procedures.
What does the start of a tooth abscess feel like?
How do I know if my tooth abscess is forming?
Generally, an abscess causes persistent and throbbing pain. You may notice tooth sensitivity, meaning that your teeth have become more sensitive or tender to hot or cold temperatures.
You may also feel tenderness while biting or chewing. Red swollen gums can also indicate an abscess.