A Pain in the Tooth … Is It an Abscess?

If you have a pain in your tooth that is throbbing or radiates, you could have an abscessed tooth. This is a serious issue and should be treated quickly.

What Is an Abscessed Tooth?

An abscessed tooth, also known as a dental abscess, occurs when a pocket of pus forms as a result of a bacterial infection. The type of abscess depends on where the pocket of pus is located.

  • A gingival abscess is an abscess on the gums. This occurs when a piece of food or object gets embedded in the gum.
  • A periapical abscess occurs at the tip of a tooth’s root. This is the most common type of abscess and typically happens when bacteria enter the pulp through a cavity.
  • A periodontal abscess is one that is on the gum next to the root of the tooth that can spread to the surrounding tissue and bone. This can be caused by gum disease or an injury.

Symptoms of an Abscess

The main symptoms of an abscessed tooth are a throbbing pain near the tooth and gums. The  pain can come on suddenly and worsen over time, and it may radiate, traveling to the ear, jaw or neck. Other symptoms can include facial redness or swelling, discolored teeth, loose teeth, bad breath, a foul taste in your mouth, and tender or swollen lymph nodes.

If you have an abscessed tooth and symptoms such as high fever, difficulty swallowing, rapid heart rate or confusion, you should go to the emergency room. An untreated abscess can cause the infection to spread to the jaw and other parts of the head and neck. It can also spread to the brain or cause sepsis.

Do Not Neglect an Abscess

If you have symptoms of an abscess, rinse your mouth with warm salt water and take an over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and pain. Also, quickly schedule a dental appointment with Enlighten Dental Care to clear up the infection and relieve the pain permanently.

There are several ways the dentist will treat an abscess, depending on the type of abscess and how severe it is.

Typically, the dentist can make a small incision to drain the pus and then clean the area with a saline solution. A more severe abscess may require a root canal, which means drilling into the affected tooth to remove the pus and the infected pulp. Then the pulp chamber and the root canal are filled and sealed. (Click here for more information about root canals.)

If a tooth is too damaged, it may need to be extracted before the abscess is drained. In all instances, if the infection has spread beyond the abscessed area, antibiotics will be prescribed.

Do not avoid going to the dentist if you have symptoms of an abscessed tooth; the consequences can be life threatening.

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