Dental Abscess with Facial Cellulitis

A dental abscess is a pocket of fluid (pus) at the tip of a tooth root in your jawbone. It's caused by an infection that often starts with a crack or cavity in a tooth. Symptoms of a dental abscess may include mouth pain and swelling, fever, red gums, and bad taste in the mouth. The pain is often made worse by having hot or cold food or 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.

If the infection isn’t treated, more serious infections may spread to the face (facial cellulitis). 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. Symptoms of cellulitis may include red and swollen skin, fever, chills, and extreme tiredness (fatigue).

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.

  • 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 healthcare 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.

  • Your provider will prescribe an antibiotic. Take it exactly as directed. Don’t miss any doses.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your provider, dentist, or 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

  • Vision problems

  • Abnormal drowsiness or confusion

  • 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

  • Swelling or redness gets worse

  • 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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