HOPEFULLY NO ONE reading this ever has to experience a dental abscess, but it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of one. A dental abscess is a pocket of pus in the jaw caused by a bacterial infection, usually one that started in the dental pulp. Abscesses can be very painful and even pose a threat to overall health due to the risk of the infection reaching the bloodstream. They should be quickly treated by an endodontist.
The Types of Dental Abscesses
There are three different types of abscesses that can develop, depending on cause. A periapical abscess can develop at the tip of an infected tooth’s root when bacteria gets into the pulp chamber through a cavity. A periodontal abscess can result from an injury or gum disease. A gingival abscess can develop if a foreign object (such as a piece of popcorn hull) stays embedded in the gums long enough to cause an infection.
Symptoms of a Dental Abscess
The most obvious symptom of a dental abscess is throbbing pain around the infected tooth. It can come on suddenly and worsen over time, and it is sometimes associated with biting down or chewing. It might get worse when lying down or radiate towards the jaw, neck, or ear. However, pain isn’t the only symptom. Other common symptoms of abscesses include:
- Tooth sensitivity
- A foul taste
- Bad breath
- Redness and swelling in the gums or around the affected tooth
- Tender, swollen lymph nodes in the neck or under the jaw
If the abscess ruptures, it may relieve some of the pain (at the same time that it brings on a horrible taste as the pus drains), but it still needs treatment!
How We Treat Dental Abscesses
The goal in treating an abscessed tooth is to relieve pain and clear out the infection. Depending on the type and severity of the abscess, treatment may include:
- Root canal therapy to remove the 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
- Removal of the foreign object if it’s a gingival abscess
Don’t Delay Getting Treatment for an Abscess!
Dental abscesses do not get better on their own. They are much more likely to get worse, more dangerous, and more expensive to deal with. If you’ve been experiencing any of the symptoms described above, schedule an appointment so we can take a look and make a plan for treatment if necessary.