A Guide to Abscesses

You’ll soon know about it if you get an abscess on your tooth. The pain can arrive very suddenly and rapidly gets worse. In most cases, the gum around the infected tooth will swell and become tender to the touch. The tooth itself will develop a throbbing ache. You may find your temperature rises and you feel feverish. In some cases, areas of the face can swell and become distorted and you can find it difficult to swallow.

If you think you have an abscess on your tooth, you need to visit your dentist as a matter of urgency. There’s no time for procrastination. To be quite honest, an abscess can be so painful that you probably will not need telling twice. However – just in case you do need any further incentive – if the infection is left unchecked then it can cause further complications. It can lead to issues such as sinusitis as the infection spreads across your face. In very rare cases, it has been known to cause a blood clot on the brain.

So, now you know the worst-case scenario. Let’s see what happens if you do the sensible thing and get your abscess treated.

An abscess is caused by poor oral hygiene. When you begin to feel pain in your tooth, it is because pus is building up around the site of the infection and creating pressure in or around your tooth. It is this pus that can cause your gums and face to swell as the infection spreads.

Therefore, when you visit your dentist for treatment, there are two things that need to be done immediately. First of all, your dentist needs to drain the pus from the site of the infection to relieve that pressure and relieve the pain. However, this is only a temporary measure. The second stage of the treatment is to ascertain how exactly the infection took hold and how it can be treated so that the tooth remains healthy in the future.

Your abscess will usually be located in one of two places. It could be right in the middle of the tooth, where tooth decay has enabled bacteria to gain access to the heart of the tooth and cause an infection. Alternatively, if you suffer from advanced gum disease, then bacteria may collect in the exposed pockets where the gums have receded around the roots of your teeth. This can then develop into an infection.

If the gum disease or decay are spotted earlier, then they can be treated and the infection cannot take hold. However, if you miss your regular check-ups at the dentist and the gum disease and decay gradually become worse, then the infection develops until it becomes an abscess. This is the point at which the pain will usually drive most people to the dentist (wishing, of course, that they had stuck to their appointments and gone earlier!).

Depending on where the abscess is located, different types of treatment may be needed. If the abscess is right at the heart of the tooth, once it is drained then your dentist will need to perform root canal treatment to clean away the decay. To stop the infection from returning, a filling will usually be put in place.

If the abscess is located in an exposed area around the tooth, your dentist will once again clean away the infection. Once this is done, the gum will hopefully close back around the tooth and therefore stop the infection from returning in the future.

To protect again infection in the short term, while the tooth heals itself, you may be prescribed antibiotics. In the future, it is important that you return to your dentist for regular check-ups. If the infection returns, then your tooth may need to be extracted.

It seems as though an abscess is definitely not something to look forward to! So can you do anything in advance to stop them? Of course you can. The majority of abscesses are caused by bacteria and tooth decay. So regular brushing and flossing should protect against tooth decay and gum disease for most of us. You should also make sure that you visit your dentist regularly. The earlier infections can be spotted, the easier (and less painful) they usually are to treat.