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An abscessed tooth has a pocket of pus in the tissues around it. Pus forms when the body tries to fight a bacterial infection, and if the pus cannot drain, it forms an abscess.

Damage to a tooth, an untreated cavity, or gum disease are all conditions able to cause an abscessed tooth. If your dentist doesn't treat the cavity, the inside of the tooth — the pulp — can become infected as well. The bacteria can spread from the tooth to the tissue around and beneath it. Gum disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets, so if food builds up in one of these pockets, bacteria can grow, and an abscess may form. Ultimately, an abscess can cause the bone around the tooth to dissolve, and with time you lose your tooth or even teeth. 

What Is An Abscessed Tooth?

An abscessed tooth is a painful infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth. Your dentist can treat this condition in a several different ways. 

The most common cause is severe tooth decay. Other causes of tooth abscess are trauma to the tooth, such as when it is broken or chipped, gingivitis, or gum disease. These problems can create openings in the tooth enamel, which then allows bacteria to infect the center of the tooth, called the pulp. The infection may also spread from the root of the tooth to the bones supporting it. [1]

What Are The Symptoms Of An Abscessed Tooth?

Severe and continuous toothaches, resulting either in gnawing, throbbing pains or brief, sharp pains are common symptoms of an abscessed tooth. Other symptoms may include fever, pain when chewing, and sensitivity to hot or cold or bitter taste. [1]

You could also feel a foul smell to the breath, swollen neck glands, general discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling, and redness and swelling of the gums.

Patients of abscessed tooth commonly report a swollen area of the upper or lower jaw with an open, draining sore on the side of the gum.

If the root of the tooth dies because of infection, the toothache may stop. However, this does not mean the infection has healed. The infection remains active and continues to spread and destroy tissue, which is why if you experience any of the above-listed symptoms, it is important to see a dentist even if the pain subsides.

How Is An Abscessed Tooth Diagnosed?

Your dentist will probe your teeth with a dental instrument, so if you have an abscessed tooth, you will feel pain when he taps the tooth by his probe. Your dentist will also ask you if your pain increases when you bite down or maybe when you close your mouth tightly. Also, your dentist may suspect an abscessed tooth because gums may be swollen and red. The dentist may also take X-rays to look for erosion of the bone around the abscess. [2]

How Is An Abscessed Tooth Treated?

  • Strategies to eliminate the infection, preserve the tooth, and prevent complications are the goals of abscessed tooth treatment. To reduce infection, the doctor needs to drain the abscess. The best way to achieve drainage is through the tooth by a procedure known as a root canal
  • Root canal surgery is also recommended to remove any diseased root tissue after the infection has subsided. 
  • Then, the doctor could place a crown over the tooth. He could also choose to extract the tooth, allowing drainage through the socket. 
  • Finally, a third way to drain the abscess would be by incision into the swollen gum tissue you have. 
  • Antibiotics could help fight the infection. 
  • To relieve the pain and discomfort associated with an abscessed tooth, you could try warm salt-water rinses and over-the-counter pain-reducing medication like ibuprofen. [1,2, 3]

Can You Prevent Tooth Abscesses?

Following good oral hygiene practices, it is possible to reduce the risk of developing a tooth abscess. Also, if your teeth experience trauma, for example, become loosened or chipped, you should seek prompt dental attention. [1,2,3]

Expectations Or Prognosis After Treatment Of An Abscessed Tooth

The infection of a tooth abscess is usually curable with treatment, and preservation of the tooth is possible in many cases. 

Complications of having abscessed tooth are [4]:

  • Loss of the tooth 
  • A spread of infection to soft tissue, and to the jawbone known as osteomyelitis of the mandible or maxilla
  • You could also experience spreading of infection to other areas of the body resulting in brain abscess, endocarditis, pneumonia, or other disorders. 
That is why it is important to call your health care provider especially if you have persistent, throbbing toothaches or other symptoms of tooth abscess. Prompt treatment of dental caries reduces the risk of tooth abscess. The dentist should examine traumatized teeth as soon as possible.

An abscessed tooth has a small ball of pus surrounded by inflamed tissue. Infection results in a collection of pus (dead tissue, live and dead bacteria, white blood cells) and swelling of the tissues within the tooth. [5]

The discharge that comes out is a pale yellow creamy consistency that causes pressure and the growing release of pus. There is no fooling around with abscessed teeth – you will need to see a dentist immediately. In fact, years before World War II and the discovery of penicillin, it was common for patients to die from dental infections. Today, super bacteria exist that are not killed by common antibiotics, so it is vital to treat an infection as soon as it begins because a smaller abscess is easier to than a larger one. 

Some dentists believe that an abscessed tooth is sterile, which means that there are no living bacteria inside the dead tooth. However, there are documented cases where life-threatening infections have developed after abscessed tooth diagnosis. In light of this fact, abscesses should always be treated seriously and with aggressive antibiotic therapy to prevent even the remote possibility of a patient’s death. [5]

Types Of Tooth Abscesses

A periapical or root-tip abscess is a pocket of infection at the base of a tooth’s root, where the tooth becomes abscessed after the pulp of the tooth becomes infected. A deep decay or an accident usually causes a periapical abscess, which will require either root canal therapy or an extraction, and in some cases, you will also need antibiotic treatment.

A lateral abscess is similar to a periapical abscess but develops along the lateral surface of the tooth’s root where the infection comes from outside the tooth instead of from within the tooth. A lateral abscess can be gingival or periodontal. A gingival abscess is only in the gum tissue and does not affect the tooth or the periodontal ligament., while the periapical abscess begins in the soft pulp of the tooth. [3]

Home Treatment For Abscessed Tooth

You may be able to reduce pain and swelling in your face and jaw from an abscessed tooth using an ice pack on the outside of your cheek. It is important is to remember not to use heat. You can also try a nonprescription medicine to help relieve your face or jaw pain, such as Acetaminophen, Tylenol or Panadol.

Acetaminophen can lower fever and relieve pain but does not reduce swelling. 

Medicines that reduce swelling are ibuprofen such as Advil or Motrin, naproxen such as Aleve or Naprosyn, and ketoprofen such as Actron or Orudis. Aspirin can also reduce swelling although some people should not take Aspirin. You should not use Aspirin if you are pregnant or if having a history of bleeding problems, or if you are younger than twenty. 

However, it would be the best not to use home treatment for an abscessed tooth, but ask your doctor what they would recommend.

Tooth Extraction And Root Canal Therapy

Advanced gum disease is the number one reason for tooth loss in adults. An abscessed tooth that your dentist cannot save is also a common reason for tooth extraction, as well as a tooth with decay too deep to keep the tooth. 

A tooth that has broken at the gum line and your dentist cannot save should also be extracted. 

When the nerve of a tooth becomes infected or abscessed, root canal therapy is the only way to save the tooth. A tooth can become abscessed because of deep decay, a cracked tooth, or trauma to the tooth. The only alternative to root canal therapy in these cases is an extraction of the tooth.

During root canal treatment, the tooth is numbed, just like having a filling. Then the doctor will remove the unhealthy nerve and place medication in the tooth to treat the bacterial abscess or infection. After your dentist removes the infection, he or she will put a filling in the roots where the unhealthy nerve was previously situated. [1,2,3,4,5]

A tooth that has undergone root canal therapy is more brittle, and the doctor must crown it to give the tooth sufficient strength. 

The tooth is cared for in the same way as other natural teeth you have. Brush and floss daily, and visit your dentist for regular preventative dental check-ups to prevent further tooth problems.