Dental Abscess with Facial Cellulitis 

A dental abscess is an infection at the base of a tooth. It means a pocket of fluid (pus) has formed at the tip of a tooth root in your jawbone. If the infection isn’t treated, more serious infections may spread to the face (facial cellulitis). This makes your face swell. Facial cellulitis is an infection of the skin and underlying soft tissues. This is a very serious condition. Once the infection and swelling starts, it can spread quickly.

A dental abscess often starts with a crack or cavity in a tooth. The pain is often made worse by having hot or cold drinks, or biting on hard foods. The pain may spread from the tooth to your ear, or to the area of your jaw on the same side.

Home care

Follow these tips when caring for yourself at home:

  • Don't have hot and cold foods and drinks. Your tooth may be sensitive to changes in temperature. Don’t chew on the side of the infected tooth.

  • If your tooth is chipped or cracked, or if there is a large open cavity, put clove oil right on the tooth to ease pain. You can buy clove oil at pharmacies. Some pharmacies carry an over-the-counter toothache kit. This has a paste that you can put on the exposed tooth to make it less sensitive.

  • Put a cold pack on your jaw over the sore area. This can help reduce pain.

  • You may use over-the-counter medicine to ease pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. Talk with your provider before using acetaminophen or ibuprofen if you have chronic liver or kidney disease. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI (gastrointestinal) bleeding.

  • An antibiotic will be prescribed. Take it exactly as directed. Don’t miss any doses.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your dentist or an oral surgeon, as advised. Severe cases of cellulitis must be checked again in 24 hours. Once a tooth infection occurs, it will be a problem until the infection is drained. This is done through surgery or a root canal. Or you may need to have your tooth pulled.

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Swelling spreads to the upper half of your face or neck

  • Your eyelids start to swell shut

  • Abnormal drowsiness

  • Headache or a stiff neck

  • Weakness or fainting

  • Trouble swallowing or breathing

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Pain gets worse or spreads to your neck

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your provider

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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