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Definition

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. It’s most commonly caused by severe tooth decay. Other causes of tooth abscess are trauma to the tooth, such as when it is broken or chipped, and gingivitis or gum disease.

These problems can cause openings in the tooth enamel, which 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 the tooth.

How common is an abscessed tooth?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of abscessed tooth?

The common symptoms of an abscessed tooth are:

  • Fever
  • Pain when chewing
  • Sensitivity of the teeth to hot or cold
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Foul smell to the breath
  • Swollen neck glands
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
  • Redness and swelling of the gums
  • Swollen area of the upper or lower jaw
  • An open, draining sore on the side of the gum

If the pulp in the root of the tooth dies as a result of infection, the toothache may stop. However, this doesn’t mean the infection has healed; the infection remains active and continues to spread and destroy tissue. Therefore, if you experience any of the above listed symptoms, it is important to see a dentist even if the pain subsides.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes an abscessed tooth?

Your mouth is full of bacteria, which form a sticky film on your teeth called plaque.

If you don’t keep your teeth clean, acids produced by the bacteria in plaque can damage your teeth and gums, leading to tooth decay or gum disease.

A periapical tooth abscess occurs when bacteria invade the dental pulp — the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue.

Bacteria enter through either a dental cavity or a chip or crack in the tooth and spread all the way down to the root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for an abscessed tooth?

There are many risk factors for ab abscessed tooth, such as:

  • Poor dental hygiene. Not taking proper care of your teeth and gums — such as not brushing your teeth twice a day and not flossing — can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth abscess, and other dental and mouth complications.
  • A diet high in sugar. Frequently eating and drinking foods rich in sugar, such as sweets and sodas, can contribute to dental cavities and turn into a tooth abscess.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?

Your dentist will probe your teeth with a dental instrument. If you have an abscessed tooth, you will feel pain when the tooth is tapped by your dentist’s probe. Your dentist will also ask you if your pain increases when you bite down or when you close your mouth tightly. In addition, your dentist may suspect an abscessed tooth because your gums may be swollen and red.

 

Your dentist may also take X-rays to look for erosion of the bone around the abscess.

How is an abscessed tooth treated?

Strategies to eliminate the infection, preserve the tooth, and prevent complications are the goals of treatment for an abscessed tooth.

To eliminate infection, the abscess may need to be drained. Achieving drainage may be done through the tooth by a procedure known as root canal therapy. Root surgery may also be recommended to remove any diseased root tissue after the infection has subsided. Then, a crown may be placed over the tooth.

The tooth may also be extracted, allowing drainage through the socket.

Finally, a third way to drain the abscess would be by incision into the swollen gum tissue.

Antibiotics are prescribed to help fight the infection. To relieve the pain and discomfort associated with an abscessed tooth, warm salt-water rinses and over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin) can be used.

The inflammation and pain of abscesses may be relieved with a low-level laser, making the patient more comfortable to receive the injection in a more painless way.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage an abscessed tooth?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with abscessed tooth:

  • Rinse your mouth with warm salt water.
  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) and ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), as needed.
  • Use fluoridated drinking water.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between your teeth on a daily basis.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or whenever the bristles are frayed.
  • Eat healthy food, limiting sugary items and between-meal snacks.
  • Visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings.
  • Consider using an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth rinse to add an extra layer of protection against tooth decay.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 24, 2017 | Last Modified: July 24, 2017

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