Dental Abscess

What is a it?

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This is a pocket of pus created by the body’s defence mechanisms when there is an infection in a tooth or in the surrounding tissues or bone.

An abscess can occur in three main places in the mouth.

An abscess at the root of a tooth occurs when the pulp (innermost layer of the tooth) becomes infected with bacteria and dies. The infection may be caused by advanced tooth decay or injury to the tooth. It is the commonest type of dental abscess.

An abscess alongside a tooth happens when the gums (the soft tissues surrounding a  tooth) are infected with bacteria due to advanced gum disease.

An abscess in gum tissue partly covering a tooth is most common with wisdom teeth (the last adult teeth to grow in). The tooth is partially covered and cleaning is difficult. Bacteria then spread under the gums and cause an abscess.

What are the symptoms?

  • Pain: Intense and continuous pain is the main symptom of a dental abscess.
  • Redness and swelling (inflammation).
  • Increased sensitivity of the tooth to hot or cold foods and drinks.
  • Bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth.
  • Fever of varying intensities depending on the severity of the infection.
  • Difficulty opening the mouth.
  • Facial swelling
  • Swallowing and breathing difficulties

It is important to see a dentist immediately one or more these symptoms are noticed, just in case there are other conditions that might make the abscess more dangerous or difficult to treat, such as lung disease, heart failure, HIV, or cancer.

What treatments work?

Treatment for an abscess centres on removing the source of the infection. There are a number of available options to do this.

The most common treatment is a root canal treatment. This involves drilling a small hole in the tooth and cleaning out the bacteria and dead tissue inside the tooth’s centre. The tooth is then filled and sealed.

The tooth may have to be removed if it is badly damaged from decay or an injury, or if the bone and tissue holding it in place have been damaged. This may also be an option in abscess caused by gums partly covering a wisdom tooth, which is located too far inside the mouth and may be difficult to clean.

Along with these treatments, a small cut may be made in the abscess and a very narrow tube inserted to drain it for a few days. This will help to get rid of the infection and allow the area to heal. This may be the only treatment needed if there is an abscess alongside a tooth and the tooth doesn’t need to be removed.

Antibiotics are usually recommended in addition to all these to help the body get rid of any remaining infection. Pain killers are also very useful both before and after treatment, and the dentist should prescribe suitable ones.

What will happen to me?

With appropriate treatment, dental abscess is quickly taken care of. However, if treatment is delayed and the infection spreads, more serious problems may arise.

There are a number of options for replacing a removed tooth with an artificial one, and the dentist should provide a guide on the ones suitable for each case.

Most dental abscesses happen because of poor dental hygiene. Thus, to prevent future problems, it is important to improve on your dental care.