Tooth abscess

What are tooth abscesses?

Tooth abscesses, which are also known as dental abscesses, are a collection of pus in the tooth, gum or surrounding bone that results from a bacterial infection. There are two main types of abscessed tooth:

  • Periapical abscess – occurs at the end of a tooth at the root.
  • Periodontal abscess – occurs inside the gum.

It is necessary to go to a dentist and have them treated as they do not heal on their own.

A toothbrush in water. Good dental hygiene is important to avoid developing a tooth abscess, which results from bacteria in the mouth.

What are the symptoms of a tooth abscess?

These are symptoms of a tooth abscess:

  • A sharp, shooting pain in the gum or affected area, which may get worse over time and come on suddenly.
  • Pain or tenderness when chewing or biting
  • Pain or sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Swelling in the cheek or other areas around the mouth
  • Red and inflamed gums
  • Possible difficulty sleeping, as the pain intensifies when lying down
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Fever and a general feeling of being unwell, especially if the infection spreads.

What are the causes of a tooth abscess?

Oral hygiene is essential and not keeping your teeth and mouth clean can cause an increase in bacteria in the mouth. This bacteria can damage teeth and gums and cause a dental abscess. Additionally, the following can increase your chance of developing a tooth abscess:

  • Eating sugary foods and drink
  • A weakened immune system
  • Having an injury to your teeth, or having had previous tooth or gum surgery

How is a tooth abscess treated?

The abscessed tooth must be treated, the cause of the infection resolved, and the pus from the tooth abscess drained.

Treatment varies depending on the severity of the dental abscess. A small cut can be made in the gum to drain the abscess. This is usually followed by further treatment and is not a permanent solution. The dentist can perform a root canal, which removes the abscess from the affected root. If this is not possible, the dentist can extract the tooth (pull it out). In some cases, antibiotics will be prescribed.

How can a tooth abscess be prevented?

Maintaining good dental hygiene can reduce the risk of developing a tooth abscess. Brushing the teeth at least twice a day and for at least two minutes each time, as well as regular flossing is key.

Cutting down on sugary foods and drink, as well as starchy foods such as bread, potatoes and rice can help too.

Having regular dental check-ups, the frequency of which will be recommended by the dentist, are also very important in maintaining good dental health.

Which specialist treats a tooth abscess?

If you have a tooth abscess or suspected one, you would need to book an appointment with a dentist.

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