If you’ve landed on this page, chances are that you or a loved one is experiencing an unwelcome and uncomfortable problem – an abscessed tooth.
Discomfort in the tooth, jaw or gum happens to millions of people each year and can vary from minor swelling or a toothache to something more serious requiring dental surgery.
Determining what you are experiencing is very important, and a diagnosis can only come from a licensed dental practitioner.
Reason For Abscessed Tooth
An abscessed tooth occurs when you experience tooth decay or gum disease and bacteria creates an infection deep in the tooth or gum. The bacteria spread to the tissue surrounding the tooth or gum and create an infected pocket, or abscess.
- Tooth Abscess Causes
- Dental – Abscessed Tooth
- There are several things that cause an abscessed tooth, including:
- Prior damage to the tooth such as a cracked or broken tooth left untreated. An untreated cavity in the tooth
- Gum disease
If a tooth has been damaged and not properly treated, it creates an opportunity for bacteria to grow in or around the tooth and in turn affect previously healthy tissue. In the case of an untreated cavity the center of the tooth, often called the “pulp”, can become infected. Bacteria from this infection spread to the surrounding tissue and create an abscess.
Gum disease on the other hand causes the gums to pull away from the teeth slightly, creating crevices and pockets that easily trap food. That food is then hard to remove by brushing or flossing and if left in the pocket forms bacteria, in turn creating an abscess.
In any of these cases if an abscessed tooth is left untreated it may result in tooth loss or bone loss around the tooth as the abscess dissolves the bone.
Abscessed Tooth Symptoms
If you have an abscessed tooth you may experience any of the following abscessed tooth symptoms. If so, contact your dentist immediately – delaying treatment allows the infection to spread and become more dangerous to your overall health1.
- Pulsing pain, most noticeably when chewing
- A tooth that is sore to the touch or tender
- Swelling around the tooth and jaw – often noticeable in the face
- Swollen gums that are red in color
- Running a fever
- Swollen glands in your neck
- Sensitivity to hot/cold drinks or food
- Saliva in your mouth that tastes salty or bitter
- A noticeable change in odor, or bad breath
- A boil or open sore on your gum near the affected area
Those who delay seeing a dentist often say that their pain has diminished – which is not a good thing. This is a sign that the infection has spread and has actually started to dissolve the bone in the jaw. Even though the pain has diminished, the infection is still present. Left untreated too long, a person may loose too much bone and the tooth may have to be removed.
In most cases, if treated before too much bone loss and loosening of the tooth, the tooth may not need removal. If you are experiencing any of these abscessed tooth symptoms then it is highly recommended that you get a Dentist’s professional assessment.
Abscessed Tooth Treatment
In order to receive abscessed tooth treatment, your dentist will first use dental instruments to probe in your mouth near the affected area. Your tooth will be sensitive to the tap of the metal when your dentist touches the affected area.
Your dentist may also order X-rays done to view any potential bone loss around the abscess. These procedures, along with visual indicators such as swollen, red gums will alert your dentist to the issue.
If your dentist diagnoses an abscessed tooth, they may prescribe a multi-step process. First, your dentist may treat the infection with antibiotics – killing the bacteria that are creating the abscess.
Second, your dentist will need to reduce the pressure and get to the source of the infection by drilling a small hole into the tooth or gum – this allows the infection to drain and often reduces the pain since the pressure has been relieved.
If the tooth itself has been infected your dentist may decide to do a root canal or remove the tooth altogether. This will be determined by the overall health of the tooth and you and your dentist will need to decide together what is best for you.
If you are unable to reach your dentist right away (keep trying!) or have some time before your appointment you may try some over-the-counter abscessed tooth pain relief or some abscessed tooth treatment at home. These are not substitutes for a visit to your dentist, however!