An abscessed tooth is a tooth that has a pocket of infection at the root. This pocket of infection is usually caused by bacteria that have entered the tooth through a crack or cavity. Tooth abscess symptoms can be mild or cause significant pain and discomfort.
Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, a dental abscess will not go away on its own. Left untreated, it can lead to a dental emergency and cause serious health problems. If you are in severe pain, you should always go to an emergency dentist, but otherwise, schedule an appointment as soon as possible with your regular dentist.
What causes a tooth abscess?
There are many possible causes of a dental abscess, including tooth decay, gum disease, and trauma to the tooth. Treatment typically involves antibiotics as well as pain relief. In some cases, the affected tooth may need removal.
What are the Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess?
Tooth abscess symptoms and signs may include:
- An intense, throbbing pain that may start suddenly
- Pain when biting or touching
- Pain that radiates to the jaw, neck or ear
- Pain that may disturb your sleep and is worse when lying down
- Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold
- Bad breath
- An unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Feeling unwell
- Difficulty swallowing, breathing or opening the mouth
- Swollen, red and tender gums
When are my symptoms a dental emergency?
Tooth abscess symptoms are variable and, to some extent, depending on where the abscess is. Intense pain, difficulty breathing or fever may indicate a dental emergency, and you should contact an emergency dentist.
Types of tooth abscess
There are three types of tooth abscess:
- A gingival abscess is a dental abscess that occurs on the gums. It is usually caused by poor oral hygiene, allowing bacteria to build up and infect the gums. It can also be caused by trauma to the gums, such as toothbrush bristle injuries, ill-fitting dental appliances, or piercings. Left untreated, a gingival abscess can lead to severe complications, such as sepsis—so a visit to the emergency dentist is a priority.
- A periodontal abscess is a pus-filled sac that forms in the gums around a tooth. It is usually the result of infection, trauma, or foreign body invasion. Symptoms may include severe pain, swelling and redness. Without treatment, a periodontal abscess can lead to severe complications, such as bone loss and tissue destruction.
- A periapical abscess is a type of dental abscess that occurs at the end of a tooth’s root. A bacterial infection causes this condition. The infection may result from tooth decay, a cracked tooth, or gum disease and can cause severe pain.
Treating Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess
You can take over-the-counter pain remedies, but you should see a dentist and treat the cause of your symptoms. Treatment for a dental abscess usually involves drainage of the pus and antibiotics to clear the infection. Tooth extraction may be the preferred treatment in some cases.
If you have tooth abscess symptoms, it’s best not to ignore them, as they could be signs of a dental emergency. Get in touch with the team at Bondi Beach Dental to schedule an appointment.
Mayo Clinic: Cavities/tooth decay
Oral Health Foundation: Gum disease