If you have ever experienced a dental abscess, you are very aware of the pain and discomfort that accompanies it. And, if you have not had a dental abscess, count yourself lucky. Dental abscesses can come out of nowhere and catch you blindsided. Your professional dental team at Sninski & Schmitt has experience diagnosing and treating this dental emergency. And, make no mistake–it is an emergency. Don’t think that you can give it time to heal on its own because it won’t. In this article, we will cover what a dental abscess is and what you should do in a dental emergency such as an abscess.

What is a Dental Abscess?

An abscess in a tooth, also called a dental abscess, is a pocket of pus that is caused by a bacterial infection. It does not resolve on its own as other infections may. The abscess can occur in different areas near the tooth and for different reasons. A periapical abscess occurs at the tip of the root whereas a periodontal abscess occurs in the gums at the side of the tooth root. A third type is a gingival abscess. 

Periapical Tooth Abscess

A periapical tooth abscess typically occurs as a result of an untreated dental cavity, an injury, or prior dental treatment. Bacteria can enter the innermost part of the tooth through either a deep cavity or a chip or crack in your tooth. The area becomes infected, irritated, and swells as the abscess forms at the tip of the root. 

Periodontal Abscess

A periodontal abscess is a pocket of pus deep in the tissues of the gum between the tooth and the gum. It will present as a small red ball pushing out of the swollen gum. A periodontal abscess can develop from an existing infection in the gums or from insufficient cleaning of the region between the teeth and gums. This type of abscess can occur with serious gum disease (periodontitis), which causes the gums to pull away from the teeth.

Gingival Abscess

A gingival abscess is confined to the gums and does not affect the tooth and ligaments. It is caused by bacterial infection from dental decay, harsh brushing, fractured teeth, food lodged in the gum line, or gum bleeding. It can also be caused by traumatic damage or severe orthodontic stress on the teeth.

Symptoms of an Abscess

These are 14 possible symptoms of a tooth abscess:

  • Pain from an abscess is usually a symptom; however, it may not be present for months or even longer.
  • Throbbing pain in the teeth and gums
  • Pressure from the pus
  • Discomfort
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the neck glands
  • Redness and swelling of gums
  • Tooth sensitivity to heat or cold
  • Unpleasant taste
  • Bad breath
  • Pain radiating to the jaw, neck, and ear
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loosening of teeth

You should see your dentist right away if you have the signs or symptoms of a tooth abscess. If you have difficulty swallowing, breathing, or fever and swelling in your face and you can’t get in touch with a dentist, go to an urgent care center or emergency room.

What Happens If a Dental Abscess Goes Untreated?

Before an abscess is treated, the infection tries to move into the pulp of the tooth or the soft tissue underneath including nerve endings and connective tissues. If the infection reaches the pulp of the tooth, the tooth dies and will require a root canal or the removal of the pulp. An untreated abscess can go beyond the pulp. It can spread to your jawbone, the soft tissues of your face and neck, adjacent teeth, or other tissues in close proximity. The objective of treating the tooth abscess is to keep the infection from spreading and creating other problems that are even more serious. If you have an abscess and experience nausea, chills, high fever, rapid heartbeat, vomiting, and confusion, seek medical assistance immediately.

Dental Abscess Treatment Options

As we stated earlier, the goal of treatment is to get rid of the infection. Here are some ways your dentist will accomplish this.

Incise and Drain the Abscess

The dentist makes a small cut into the abscess so the pus can drain out and then washes the area with salt water (saline). It may also be necessary for a small rubber drain to be placed to keep the area open for drainage while the swelling goes down.

Perform a Root Canal

A root canal can help get rid of the infection and save the tooth. This procedure involves the dentist drilling down into the tooth, removing the diseased central tissue (pulp), and draining the abscess. Then, the tooth’s pulp chamber and root canals are filled and sealed. Finally, the tooth may be capped with a crown to make it stronger. This is usually done for molars. A tooth that has had this procedure can last a lifetime.

Extract the Tooth

If the dentist assesses that the tooth cannot be saved, the dentist will extract the tooth and drain the abscess to get rid of the infection.

Prescribe an Antibiotic

If the infection is limited to the abscessed area, you may not need antibiotics. However, if the infection has spread to other teeth, your jaw, or other areas, the dentist will prescribe antibiotics to stop it from spreading further.

Contact Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry Today

Our experienced dental professionals at Sninski & Schmitt Family Dentistry can diagnose and treat a dental abscess. If you suspect that you have an abscess or are experiencing any kind of dental emergency, call us at once. We have the knowledge you are looking for to maintain healthy teeth. We have two offices conveniently located in Holly Springs and Cary. Call us at 919-600-6262 for Holly Springs and 919-467-2203 for our Cary office or complete the form below. We look forward to hearing from you.

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