A dental abscess is a bacterial infection of the tooth or gums. It is a collection of pus that may cause severe pain and even systemic symptoms such as fever. Unfortunately, a tooth abscess does not settle on its own. Knowing the dental abscess symptoms to watch out for helps you know when to seek immediate help from a dentist. But first, let’s look at the different dental abscesses and what causes them in the first place.
Types of Dental Abscess
There are three types of dental abscesses, depending on their location. They are diagnosed by an emergency dentist with the help of an X-ray and other diagnostic tools.
This is an abscess located specifically on the gum tissue. It does not affect the tooth or its supporting structures, so any treatment should only be targeted at the gum area.
This tooth abscess starts in the space between a tooth and the surrounding bone. It can affect the tooth’s health and may cause tooth loss if left untreated.
As the most common type of dental abscess, a periapical abscess is located on the end of the tooth root.
Causes of a Dental Abscess
A tooth abscess occurs when bacteria access the teeth and gums. With poor oral hygiene, bacteria proliferate to harm the teeth, gums, and mouth structures. When these are left to thrive, it can cause infection, eventually leading to a dental abscess.
Aside from poor dental hygiene management, other reasons that may cause the development of a tooth abscess include:
- Frequent consumption of sweets
- Injury to the teeth and gums
- Gum and periodontal disease
- Compromised immune system
- Systemic conditions such as diabetes
Dental Abscess Symptoms
The symptoms associated with a dental abscess differ with every patient. It largely depends on the infection’s severity, oral health, and general wellbeing.
Throbbing pain on the site of infection
Pain is one of the common symptoms. As the tooth abscess grows, the pain will radiate as it spreads to other areas. Eventually, you may have to deal with a dental emergency such as excruciating pain that may make eating and sleeping very uncomfortable.
Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
Sometimes, a tooth abscess causes a pimple-like bump on the gum. A yellowish-white liquid (pus) will ooze out if you press it. Pus is full of bacteria, leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, and causes bad breath.
Puffy gums may be localised on one tooth area or may spread across the gums. Additionally, bleeding gums are also an indication of possible tooth abscess.
Fever with swollen lymph nodes
The infection is more prevalent when systemic symptoms such as swollen and painful lymph nodes are present. This is an indication that the body is fighting off the disease. You may also experience fever as your body’s natural inflammatory defence mechanism.
Swelling of the face
Facial swelling is another one of the symptoms of dental abscess. This dental emergency is evident with widespread infection, especially for infected upper back teeth. It occurs when the infection spreads via the bloodstream to various parts of the face and sinus.
Other dental abscess symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drinks
- Loose teeth
- Headache and ear pain
- Breathing difficulties
Relieving Pain from an Abscess
If you have access to an emergency dentist, contact them so they can provide you with early dental intervention. Otherwise, you may note these pain management tips while you are waiting to visit an emergency dental clinic:
- Take painkillers with caution
- Eat cool and soft food
- Avoid eating or brushing along the affected area
- Place an ice pack on swollen cheeks
Treating a Dental Abscess
If you present any of the abovementioned dental abscess symptoms, you must visit your emergency dentist as soon as possible. The sooner the infection is controlled, the better chance we have to preserve the tooth and bone to maintain optimal oral health.
At No Gaps Dental, we observe the following protocol for the treatment of a tooth abscess:
Incision & drainage
A non-urgent dental abscess can be treated with antibiotic therapy to control the infection. Or your dentist can proceed with incision and drainage of the abscess to completely resolve the pain and swelling.
Root canal therapy
Root canal therapy is the usual treatment for a periapical dental abscess.
With access to the root canals, the infection on the tooth root is medicated to resolve the bacterial infection.
If necessary, a crown will later be placed to preserve the tooth.
If the affected tooth cannot be saved by root canal treatment, it will be extracted to eliminate the accompanying dental abscess and stop the spread of infection.
If breathing difficulties, severe facial swelling, and high fever are already present, it is best to seek medical care immediately in the emergency department of your local hospital. They will provide more powerful antibiotics to prevent further complications.
Keeping your smile healthy
The best way to treat a dental abscess is through preventive dentistry. Be sure to visit your dentist for routine check-ups and teeth cleaning, and practice an excellent oral hygiene routine.
Should you encounter a dental emergency such as an abscess, our dental team at No Gaps Dental is always here to help. Contact us at (02) 8007 6727 and request a same-day appointment.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Medical News Today – What’s to know about dental abscesses?
Medical News Today – What to know about the stages of tooth decay and abscesses
Journal of Oral Hygiene & Health – Dental Infection and Diabetes: The Cycle
Cleveland Clinic – Abscessed Tooth
Healthline – Gum Boils
Mayo Clinic – Swollen Lymph Nodes
WebMD – Tooth Infection Treatment