A dental abscess or tooth abscess is a buildup of pus in the teeth or gums. It’s usually caused by a bacterial infection. Three types of dental abscesses exist: gingival, periodontal, and periapical. A gingival abscess is only found in the gums, whereas periodontal abscesses start in the bone tissue structures of the teeth. Periapical abscesses start in the soft pulp of the tooth.
The primary symptom of an abscess is a throbbing and intense pain. It usually starts suddenly and becomes more intense over time. In some cases, the pain may extend into the jaw, ear bone, neck and head.
Additional symptoms may include:
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms you should contact your dentist immediately. The treatment is often a simple dental procedure but in some cases may require surgery. A gingival abscess is often treated with a small incision to drain the offending pus. A periapical abscess is usually treated with a root canal. A root canal is a procedure in which a drill is used to bore a small hole into the tooth to drain the pus. A root filling is then placed in the small hole to prevent further infections. The treatment of a periapical abscess involves drawing the pus and cleaning the periodontal pocket. The root will then be smoothed below the gum line to prevent additional infections;
If patients are experiencing recurring infections and abscesses, surgery may be required. The surgical procedure involves removing the diseased part of the gum. If the abscess recurs then the entire tooth may need to be removed by a dental surgeon.
Over the counter painkillers such as aspirin and ibuprofen are often used by the patient to reduce the pain. It’s important that the patient sees a dentist as soon as possible. Antibiotics are often prescribed by your dentist to stop the infection from spreading. Painkillers and antibiotics on their own are not enough and the patient must seek help from a qualified dental professional.
If you believe you may have a dental abscess you should consult a dental surgeon immediately. If the pain is severe or you're having trouble breathing and swallowing, you should visit a hospital right away.