Are you noticing tooth pain? Swelling around your mouth and jaw? Sensitivity to chewing, pressure, or temperature changes? You may have an abscessed tooth.
An abscessed, or infected, tooth, can interfere with your daily life and should be treated by a dentist as soon as possible. But what causes an abscessed tooth? How can an abscessed tooth be treated or prevented?
Routine daily dental care and preventative dental checkups can go a long way in preventing an abscess from becoming a dental emergency. Read on to learn about abscessed teeth, their causes, and their treatments.
What is an Abscessed Tooth?
An abscess in an infected area that has filled with pus—likely not something you want in your mouth. Abscesses are often marked by heat, swelling, redness, and pain.
There are 2 types of abscessed teeth:
- Periodontal abscess: occurs in the tooth’s bone
- Periapical abscess: occurs in the soft pulp within the tooth
When an abscess forms in the gums, it’s called a gingival abscess.
Abscessed Tooth Symptoms
How do you notice an abscessed tooth? You’ll likely feel some discomfort. Symptoms of an abscessed tooth include:
- Sharp, throbbing pain
- Bad taste in the mouth
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- Temperature sensitivity
- Puffy gums
- Red gums
- A foul odour attached to chewing with that tooth
If you notice anything amiss with your teeth, please book an appointment with your dentist as soon as you’re able.
Risk Factors & Causes of Abscessed Teeth
- Dental trauma (or damage to the tooth)
- Poor dental hygiene
When bacteria enters through a crack or cavity in the tooth, it can cause infection to spread. The center of the tooth is made of a soft pulp that is susceptible to damage. The nerve of the tooth is located within the pulp, which is the cause of abscess-related pain.
Factors including a diet high in sugar, dry mouth, and irregular brushing & flossing can increase your risk of dental damage.
Are Abscessed Teeth Serious?
In a word: yes. If left untreated, a dental abscess can spread the infection to the rest of the body. This only happens in rare cases, but the infection may become systemic (involving multiple areas of the body), resulting in uncomfortable or dangerous symptoms. such as:
- Double vision
- Itching or burning skin
- Severe headache
- Double vision or loss of vision
- Drooping eyelids
- Difficulty breathing
Some of the most critical outcomes of an untreated abscess include:
- Sepsis, where the body has a severe reaction to a blood infection
- Cellulitis, an infection in the deep layers of skin and the fat immediately beneath them
- Cavernous sinus thrombosis, an infection in the sinuses’ blood vessels
At their worst, these conditions can be life-threatening. But there’s no need to let a tooth infection get anywhere close to fatal. Treatments are available. Visit your dentist at the first sign of tooth infection.
How to Treat Abscessed Teeth
The severity of the infection and the placement of the infection indicate how the abscess needs to be treated.
If caught early enough, the abscess can be drained and cleaned. Even if the abscess bursts on its own, coming in to the dentist to have the site cleaned is important. Keeping the site sterile is necessary to prevent further complications.
One of the most common ways to treat an abscessed tooth is with a root canal. A root canal is completed by drilling through the tooth, removing the infected pulp, and flushing out the now empty centre of the tooth to ensure it’s clean. After the infection has been removed and the tooth has been cleaned, the tooth will be sealed, potentially with a crown.
If the tooth is too badly damaged, an extraction may be necessary. The pulled tooth can be replaced with a dental implant to keep your smile complete.
Preventing Abscessed Teeth
Small steps can be taken every day to help prevent abscessed teeth and many other dental health problems. Proper dental health techniques can go a long way towards preventing tooth infections. Remember to:
- Brush teeth twice daily
- Floss regularly
- Eat a healthy diet, taking care to avoid excessive sugar
- Drink fluoridated water