ABSCESSED TOOTH Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
Symptoms, Causes & Treatments
A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that's caused by a bacterial infection. The abscess can occur at different regions of the tooth for different reasons. A periapical (per-e-AP-ih-kul) abscess occurs at the tip of the root, whereas a periodontal (per-e-o-DON-tul) abscess occurs in the gums next to a tooth root. The information here refers specifically to periapical abscesses.
A periapical tooth abscess usually occurs as a result of an untreated dental cavity, an injury or prior dental work.
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. Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can lead to serious, even life-threatening, complications.
Signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:
• Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear
• Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
• Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
• Swelling in your face or cheek
• Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
• Sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in your mouth and pain relief if the abscess ruptures
A periapical tooth abscess occurs when bacteria invade the dental pulp — the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue.
Bacteria enter through either a dental cavity or a chip or crack in the tooth and spread all the way down to the root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root.
The goal of treatment is to get rid of the infection. To accomplish this, your dentist may:
• 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 salt water (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 pull (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.