WE ALL HOPE we’ll never have to experience a dental abscess, but we should still be able to recognize the signs of one. A dental abscess is a pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection, usually one that started in the dental pulp. Dental abscesses can be incredibly painful and even dangerous to a person’s overall health. They should be treated by an endodontist as quickly as possible.
Dental Abscesses Come in Three Types
Depending on what causes the abscess, it could be one of three types: periapical, periodontal, or gingival. A periapical abscess develops at the tip of an infected tooth’s root when bacteria enters the pulp chamber through a cavity. A periodontal abscess can be the result of an injury or gum disease. The third type, a gingival abscess, happens as a reaction to a foreign object like a piece of popcorn hull staying embedded in the gums long enough to trigger an infection.
What Are the Symptoms of a Dental Abscess?
The signature symptom of a dental abscess is throbbing pain around the tooth in question, which may come on suddenly and get worse over time. The pain can also be associated with biting down or chewing, it may radiate towards the neck, jaw, or ear, and it can get worse when lying down. Pain isn’t the only symptom, however. Here are some of the others:
- A foul taste
- Tooth sensitivity
- Bad breath
- Swelling and redness around the affected tooth
- Swollen, tender lymph nodes in the neck or under the jaw
- Swelling and redness in the gums
If an abscess ruptures, it may relieve some of the pain while bringing on a horrible taste as the pus drains, but that doesn’t mean it no longer needs treatment!
Treating Dental Abscesses
When we treat an abscessed tooth, the goal is to relieve pain and clear out the infection. Depending on what type the abscess is and how severe it is, the treatment could involve root canal therapy to remove infected pulp and save the tooth, extraction (if the tooth is too damaged to be saved), antibiotics (particularly in cases where the infection has spread), and removal of the foreign object if it’s a gingival abscess.
Don’t Wait to Get Treatment for an Abscess
An abscess is not going to get better on its own. It’s much more likely to get worse (and more expensive) to deal with. So if you’ve been experiencing some of the symptoms we mentioned, schedule an appointment so that we can take a look and make a plan for treatment!