What is a tooth abscess?
An abscessed tooth is characterised by a pocket of pus resulting from a bacterial infection. Abscesses can happen in different places around an affected tooth, damaging the involved tooth, potentially harming adjacent teeth, and decaying the neighbouring bone.
What are the types of tooth abscesses?
There are three types of tooth abscesses:
- Gingival abscess: It is an infection of the gums, and rarely affects the tooth or the neighbouring structures.
- Periodontal abscess: This infection begins in the tissues and the bone supporting the tooth. A periodontal abscess is typically caused by gum disease, and adults are more likely to get one.
- Periapical abscess: It can form at the tip of the tooth root. This happens when bacteria enters and infects the pulp through a cavity or fracture in the tooth. The pulp is the tooth’s innermost layer that contains blood vessels and nerves. Bacteria invading the pulp can spread to the tooth’s root and cause an infection, which may result in an abscess.
What are some symptoms of a tooth abscess?
An abscessed tooth is primarily characterised by an intense, throbbing pain in your gums or near a tooth. The pain typically comes on abruptly and intensifies over time. Other symptoms include:
- Swollen or tender lymph nodes under your jaw
- Loose or discoloured teeth
- Pain when biting or chewing
- Pain that radiates to your neck, jaw, or ear
- Bad breath
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold food
- Swollen gums
- Pain that gets worse when lying down
If a dental abscess ruptures, you’ll experience immediate pain relief and a sudden foul taste in your mouth.
What are the options for treating a tooth abscess?
Depending on the severity and type of your tooth abscess, treatment options include:
Incision and drainage
Your dentist will pierce the abscess to drain the pus. They might also place a small rubber drainage tube to keep the area open for drainage.
Root canal treatment
The root canal procedure involves the removal of the infected inner pulp. The space left empty is filled with materials to ensure no other infection will occur in the future.
The inner pulp is essential when the tooth is still growing; however, once it reaches maturity, the tooth can function without it. Your tooth will be fine after the treatment, but you might need a crown for protection. With proper care, the restored tooth can last a lifetime.
In some cases, your dentist may need to extract a tooth that can’t be saved. This will allow the pus to drain from the socket.
You might not need antibiotics if the infection is only restricted to the abscessed area. However, if you have a weakened immune system or the infection has progressed, your dentist might prescribe antibiotics to help get rid of the infection.
Is a tooth abscess considered a dental emergency?
You may be wondering, is a dental abscess considered a dental emergency? Yes, it is absolutely a dental emergency. You need to seek treatment right away if you have a tooth abscess. An abscess left untreated can cause a severe infection that spreads throughout the body, which could be life-threatening. It is always best to get these problems treated as soon as possible!
How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?
Your dentist will not only examine your tooth and the tissue around it for signs of infection but may also:
Recommend a CT scan. A CT scan will help to determine the extent of the infection and if it has reached other areas within the neck.
Recommend an X-ray. Determining the source of your infection is essential to prevent it from occurring again. X-rays show if the dental infection has spread and what other areas may be affected.
Thermal tests. These tests will help your dentist determine the health of the soft tissue in your teeth.
Tap on your teeth. An abscessed tooth is usually sensitive to pressure or touch.
What are the risk factors that may elevate your risk of a dental abscess?
Risk factors that may elevate your risk of a tooth abscess include:
- Dry mouth. Having a dry mouth can up your chance of getting cavities. A dry mouth is often caused by the side effects of certain medications or issues with ageing.
- A diet high in sugar. Regularly drinking sodas and eating sugary foods can cause dental cavities, eventually leading to dental abscesses.
- Poor oral habits and care. If you don’t properly take care of your gums and teeth by brushing twice a day and flossing, you’re at risk of developing oral problems. Problems may include dental complications, such as tooth abscesses, gum disease, and tooth decay.
What are the complications of a tooth abscess?
Understand that an abscessed tooth won’t get better without proper treatment. If the abscess ruptures, you may feel relief in pain and think that the problem has vanished, but dental care is still essential. And if the abscess doesn’t drain, the infection could potentially progress and spread to other areas of your neck, head, and jaw.
If the tooth is close to your maxillary sinuses, two large areas underneath your eyes and behind your cheeks, you might get a sinus infection. Patients might even develop sepsis, a potentially life-threatening infection that can spread throughout their bodies. If you leave an abscess untreated and have a compromised immune system, your risk of infection increases.
How to prevent tooth abscesses?
By adopting a healthier oral routine, you can avoid tooth abscesses in the future and improve the conditions that led to your current infection.
Here are some tips for maintaining your dental health:
- Visit your dentist regularly
- Avoid tobacco products and smoking
- Eat a balanced and healthy diet that limits overly acidic or sugary foods and drinks
- Clean between your teeth once daily using an interdental toothbrush and a flossing device
- Brush for two minutes twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush
Don’t let the infection or pain worsen. Get help immediately.
It’s worth knowing that a tooth abscess needs immediate treatment by a dentist. This condition will not go away on its own. If you observe any of the symptoms of the dental abscess mentioned above, you should get in touch with our team at Bondi Beach Dental by calling on (02) 9159 6957 as soon as possible. We will work quickly to evaluate the infection and determine the most appropriate dental treatment.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
What’s to know about dental abscesses?
Abscessed Tooth: What You Need to Know