A dental abscess, or tooth abscess, is an accumulation of pus that forms inside the teeth or gums. The abscess typically originates from a bacterial infection, often one that has accumulated in the soft pulp of the tooth. Bacteria exist in plaque, a by-product of food, saliva and bacteria in the mouth which sticks to the teeth and damages them, as well as the gums. Signs and symptoms of a dental abscess include:
• Pain in the affected area when biting
• Touching the affected area may be painful
• Sensitivity to cold or hot food and liquids
• A foul taste in the patient's mouth
• General malaise (the patient feels generally unwell)
• Trismus - the patient finds it harder to open his/her mouth
• Dysphagia - swallowing difficulties
HOW IS TOOTH ABSCESS DIAGNOSED?
The dentist will closely look at the teeth, mouth, and gums. It may hurt when the dentist taps the tooth. Biting or closing your mouth tightly also increases the pain. The gums may be swollen and red, and may drain thick material. Dental x-rays and other tests can help your dentist determine which tooth or teeth are causing the problem.
HOW IS TOOTH ABSCESS TREATED?
Dentists will treat a tooth abscess by draining it and getting rid of the infection. They may be able to save your tooth with a root canal treatment, but in some cases the tooth may need to be pulled. Open up (incise) and drain the abscess. The dentist will make a small cut into the abscess, allowing the pus to drain out, and then wash the area with saltwater (saline).
Perform a root canal. This can help eliminate the infection and save your tooth. To do this, your dentist drills down into your tooth, removes the diseased central tissue (pulp) and drains the abscess. He or she then fills and seals the tooth's pulp chamber and root canals. The tooth may be capped with a crown to make it stronger, especially for a molar tooth. If you care for your restored tooth properly, it can last a lifetime.
Pull the affected tooth. If the affected tooth can't be saved, your dentist will extract the tooth and drain the abscess to get rid of the infection.
Prescribe antibiotics. If the infection is limited to the abscessed area, you may not need antibiotics. But if the infection has spread to nearby teeth, your jaw or other areas, your dentist will likely prescribe antibiotics to stop it from spreading further. He or she may also recommend antibiotics if you have a weakened immune system.
DID YOU KNOW?
Those suffering from periodontal disease have a higher risk of tooth abscess.