Dental abscesses are collections of pus that form inside the teeth, the gums, or the bone that supports the teeth. Often they’re quite painful, but not always. Either way, an abscess requires immediate treatment.
Dr. AnnMarie Olson and Dr. Kacie Culotta of Restora Dental Arts in Austin, TX, break down everything you need to know about dental abscesses, how to prevent them, and what to do if you suspect you may have one.
What is a dental abscess?
A dental abscess is a pocket of pus that forms in your teeth or gums due to a bacterial infection. Abscesses can form in different areas of your mouth, including the root of your tooth, the space between your teeth and gums, or the bone that supports your teeth. When a tooth abscess occurs, the surrounding tissue swells and becomes inflamed. Left untreated, it can lead to serious complications, including spreading infection to other parts of your body.
Recognizing the symptoms of an abscessed tooth
Again, not everyone experiences noticeable symptoms, but for those who do, the most common are:
- A gnawing or throbbing sensation
- Sharp or shooting pain
- Pain that radiates to your jawbone, neck, or ear
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- Bitter taste in your mouth
- Bad breath
- Red and swollen gums
- Loosening of the affected tooth
- A draining sore on the side of your gums
How to prevent dental abscesses
The best way to prevent dental abscesses is to practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss at least once a day, and limit sugary and acidic foods and drinks that can erode your tooth enamel and cause tooth decay. Regular dental checkups and cleanings are essential too. It lets your dentist prevent abscesses by catching early signs of decay or infection.
How dental abscesses occur
Dental abscesses usually occur when bacteria enter the tooth through a cavity or crack. Once inside, the bacteria multiply and cause an infection. The infection leads to swelling and inflammation. The infection can spread to the surrounding tissue and jawbone if left untreated.
Complications of dental abscesses
Untreated abscesses can lead to severe complications. The infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the jawbone, sinuses, or brain. It can also cause sepsis, a life-threatening condition when the body's immune system goes into overdrive trying to fight the infection. Additionally, an abscess can lead to the loss of the affected tooth or require a root canal or extraction.
What to do If you think you have a dental abscess
If you have a dental abscess, seeing a dentist as soon as possible is essential. Signs of a dental abscess include severe pain, swelling, and a pus-filled lump near the affected tooth. Your dentist will examine the area and may take X-rays to determine the extent of the infection. Treatment may include draining the abscess, taking antibiotics, or undergoing a root canal or extraction.
If you suspect a dental abscess and for all your oral healthcare needs, contact Restora Dental Arts by phone or use our online feature to make an appointment at our office.