Your dentist is available for more than regular cleanings and exams—they can provide timely care for dental emergencies. However, it can be difficult to tell when to visit the dentist for a problem, such as an abscess.
Continue reading to learn more about gum abscesses, including what they are, how dangerous they are, and when to visit your dentist.
What Is a Gum Abscess?
You may have heard about tooth abscesses before, a pocket of pus that develops in your tooth. This infection can develop in the tooth or the gums, known as a periodontal abscess. Gum abscesses are more common in people with poor dental health.
While you may not notice signs of a tooth problem, abscesses can be easily visible and cause significant discomfort. They cause persistent pain, swelling, and redness in the infected area, making it difficult to eat and drink comfortably.
Other common signs of a gum abscess include:
- A loose tooth
- Bad taste in the mouth due to pus discharge
- Pain while chewing
- Pus discharge
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food & drinks
You should visit your dentist as soon as possible if you have symptoms of an abscess. They can examine your gums and look for signs of infection before treating your condition.
What Causes a Gum Abscess?
Abscesses happen when bacteria in the mouth cause an infection. This problem develops in the space between the teeth and the gums.
A gum abscess can occur due to periodontitis disease, a periodontal pocket, or a weakened immune system.
Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, occurs due to poor oral hygiene. Improper or infrequent brushing and flossing can lead to an infection in the gums, damaging your soft tissue. Gum disease begins when plaque forms on your teeth.
Plaque forms when starches and sugars from the food you eat mix with bacteria and rest on your teeth. Plaque can lead to gingivitis, a milder form of gum disease causing irritation and inflammation in your gums. An abscess can form when this infection is unaddressed for longer periods.
Another potential cause of a gum abscess is a periodontal pocket, an opening near the teeth under the gum line. While your teeth are typically closely held by the surrounding gum tissue, gum disease can cause this tissue to wear down, creating a gap known as a pocket. An abscess can form when bacteria, food, and plaque become stuck.
Besides gum disease and periodontal pockets, having a weaker immune system can play a part in a gum abscess. Your body has a more difficult time fighting off an infection, leading to a potential abscess. Being tired, stressed, or having a chronic illness can affect your body’s natural defences against infection.
Is a Gum Abscess Dangerous?
A gum abscess is a dental emergency requiring treatment as soon as possible. Never ignore signs of an abscess—this infection can cause damage throughout your entire body. A gum abscess is an emergency because the infection can spread deeper into your gum tissue and the surrounding teeth and bones.
Besides increased pain and swelling, there’s the risk that the infection can travel into parts of your face and body. While rare, a gum infection can enter your bloodstream, causing a complication known as sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition.
While abscesses are dangerous, they are typically preventable with good oral hygiene. If you develop an abscess, your dentist can treat this infection before it causes further complications.
Treating a Gum Abscess
Treating a gum abscess requires help from your dentist. There is no way abscesses can heal alone without proper dental care.
Your dentist will drain the abscess and remove any debris inside the pocket. Draining the abscess is essential for removing the infection and avoiding future complications. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics if the abscess cannot fully drain to help prevent swelling and stop the infection from spreading.
Afterward, they may recommend scaling and root planing, a deep cleaning where your dentist scrapes plaque away and helps the gums fasten to your teeth. If an abscess has caused enough damage, you may require a tooth extraction.
Your dentist will determine the best treatment method for your needs after their examination. The most important thing is to go to the dentist if you have symptoms of an abscess. You can help prevent significant complications and protect your oral health.
Don’t Ignore a Dental Emergency
An abscess is a dental emergency that requires swift action. While it can seem inconvenient to go to the dentist, you should never ignore a dental emergency. Abscesses aren’t the only emergency you should watch for—many dental emergencies can occur.
Some common dental emergencies include:
- Badly bitten lip or tongue
- Chipped or broken tooth
- Knocked-out tooth
- Lost filling
- Something stuck between the teeth
Visit your dentist right away if you experience a dental emergency. They can recommend the best available treatments depending on the severity of your problem.