A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that forms near an infected tooth as a result of a bacterial infection. Abscesses sometimes form at the tip of a tooth’s root (called a periapical abscess) and, other times, they might form along the side of a tooth’s root (called a periodontal abscess).
Abscesses are not only painful and an indication of the need for immediate dental treatment, but they can also pose serious health risks and, in severe cases, even be life-threatening. If you notice any of the following signs and symptoms of a dental abscess, you should seek medical attention with your dentist as soon as possible. If you have swelling that is causing difficulty to swallow or breathe and/or high fever and are unable to see your dentist right away, then you should seek emergency medical care immediately.
5 Signs and Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth
A tooth abscess is usually quite painful. Patients often experience a severe and constant toothache that throbs. This pain might extend into the ear, jawbone, or neck.
An abscess might also lead to tooth sensitivity that causes pain or discomfort when the teeth are exposed to cold or hot temperatures. There might also be pain, sensitivity, or discomfort as a result of pressure being put on the tooth or the area of the abscess when you are chewing or biting down.
An abscess can also cause swelling in your face, mouth, cheek, or neck. In severe cases, the swelling can actually make it difficult to swallow or even to breathe. When this happens, it is very serious and time to seek emergency care at a hospital.
As with most bacterial infections, a fever is also a common symptom of a tooth abscess. If you don’t have a fever via an oral thermometer, but the swollen area is warm to the touch, this is also an indication of an abscess.
4. Swollen Lymph Nodes
As a result of an abscessed tooth putting the immune system into overdrive, you might notice that your lymph nodes (especially those located in your neck or around your jaw area) become swollen and tender.
5. Foul Order or Taste
Since an abscess is a pocket filled with pus and bacteria, it may emit a foul odor and taste. You might notice a general bad smell coming from your mouth. If the abscess ruptures, you might experience a rush of a slightly salty, bad-tasting, and bad-smelling fluid in your mouth. This rush often comes with a bit of pain relief since the pressure of the abscess is reduced.
What Causes an Abscessed Tooth?
The insides of your teeth are filled with a soft tissue called the pulp. Tooth pulp contains a combination of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues. The pulp can get infected when it is exposed to bacteria as a result of severe tooth decay or a deep cavity, periodontal (gum) disease, a cracked tooth, or due to old, worn-out dental work. Lastly, trauma to a tooth can cause the nerve inside the pulp chamber to die and create an abscess. This can happen shortly after trauma or many years later.
Sometimes, the initial infection can be treated with a simple root canal procedure. However, if the infection is left untreated, the pulp inside the tooth can actually end up dying, resulting in the formation of an abscess.
It’s also possible to have multiple teeth develop separate abscesses at the same time. A single abscess, related to one tooth, can spread through the bone tissue and affect several different spots around your mouth.
The issues that lead to dental abscesses mostly all begin with poor oral hygiene. Eating a diet that is high in sugar and failing to brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss once a day, and visit the dentist regularly for cleanings can all contribute to the poor oral health conditions that cause abscesses such as tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.
How to Diagnose and Treat an Abscessed Tooth
Abscessed teeth are diagnosed with a variety of methods. Your dentist at Smile Hilliard will perform an examination of your oral condition, take appropriate x-rays, and conduct several tests that include temperature, percussion, and pressure tests. Based on the test results and evaluating the presence of pain, going over any history of trauma, and analyzing any images or x-rays, your dentist will be able to give you a proper diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment options. Once diagnosed, there are several ways in which an abscess is treated and can vary slightly from case-to-case. The goal of each treatment is to eliminate the infection.
Treatments for an abscessed tooth include:
- Prescription oral antibiotics
- Surgery (drains the abscess with a small incision, followed by rinsing with salt water)
- Root canal therapy
- Tooth extraction
Patients typically receive a combination of the above-mentioned treatments to fully resolve the infection and restore their oral health.
Dental Abscess Treatment With Our Hilliard Dentists
A tooth abscess is nothing to smile about, but thankfully an abscessed tooth can be easily resolved with treatment from our dentists in Hilliard. Our office is fully equipped with digital x-ray machines that allow us to diagnose our patients quickly with diagnostic images that are immediately available for evaluation. Once diagnosed, we can discuss a recommended treatment plan to address the abscess and resolve the infection while also discussing your options for tooth extraction or restoration with a dental crown or dental implant.
To learn more about abscessed teeth or to schedule an appointment, we welcome you to contact Smile Hilliard or request an appointment online today.