What Is An Abscess Tooth And What Causes It?

Wellspring Dental

If you have noticed an uncomfortable, tender feeling in your mouth that isn’t going away, there is a chance you may be dealing with an abscess tooth. So what is an abscess tooth? Simply put, it’s a pocket of pus that forms within your mouth from a bacterial infection. 

If you have an abscess tooth, it’s important that you get the infection taken care of right away. When left untreated, the abscess can turn into a serious, life-threatening condition. That being said, we’re going to give you a quick rundown on what dental abscess are so that you can understand what to look out for. 

What causes an abscess tooth? 

A dental abscess is caused by bacteria getting into your teeth and gums. This can happen one of three ways: 

Periapical abscess. This occurs when bacteria enters the pulp of your teeth, usually through a cavity. The pulp is the soft, inner part of your tooth, which is made up of nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels.

Periodontal abscess. This type of dental abscess is typically caused by gum disease, but in some cases can be the result of an injury to the mouth. 

Gingival abscess. We’ve all been here– something ends up in your gums that’s not supposed to be there. This could be a popcorn hull, chip or toothbrush bristle, which can get embedded in your gums and lead to infection.

What are the symptoms of an abscess tooth? 

Dental abscess can cause moderate to severe pain, which sometimes can even radiate to your ears or neck. We don’t want it to get that bad– so what are the symptoms to really look out for? The main symptom is a throbbing pain near the tooth or in the gums, but you may also experience any of the symptoms below: 

  • Radiating pain in your ear, jaw, or neck.
  • Pain that intensifies when lying down. 
  • Pain or sensitivity when chewing or biting.
  • Facial redness and swelling. 
  • Bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth.
  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes, specifically in your neck and under the jawline. 

How to treat an abscess tooth 

The main priority when treating an abscess tooth is eliminating the infection and reducing any pain or discomfort. In some cases, an X-ray of your mouth can help determine where the infection is and how far it has spread. Once your dentist has identified the severity of your dental abscess, a treatment plan will be put in place. A few treatment options for an abscess tooth include: 

Draining the abscess. This involves making a small cut in the abscess to drain the pus, followed by cleaning the area to remove the bacteria.

A root canal. This is typically recommended when the infection has made it down to the pulp. 

Tooth extraction. Unfortunately if the tooth is too damaged to be saved, your dentist may have to remove the tooth before draining the abscess. 

Antibiotics. If the infection has spread throughout your mouth, your dentist may recommend an antibiotic to help combat the infection and stop it from spreading further.

Removal of the foreign object. If your dental abscess was caused by a foreign object in your gums, your dentist will remove it and finish up by cleaning the infected area. 

If you find that you are experiencing similar symptoms to what we have explained above, we highly encourage you to seek help from your dentist. Any infection within your body is nothing to ignore– especially when it’s in your mouth! 

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