A dental abscess is an infection at the base of a tooth. It means a pocket of pus has formed at the tip of a tooth root in your jaw bone. If the infection isn’t treated, it can appear as a swelling on the gum near the tooth. More serious infections spread to the face. This causes your face to swell (cellulitis). This is a very serious condition. Once the swelling begins, it can spread quickly.
A dental abscess usually starts with a crack or cavity in a tooth. The pain is often made worse by drinking hot or cold beverages, or biting on hard foods. The pain may spread from the tooth to your ear or the area of your jaw on the same side.
Follow these tips when caring for yourself at home:
Avoid 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 oil of cloves directly on the tooth to relieve pain. You can buy oil of cloves at drugstores. Some pharmacies carry an over-the-counter "toothache kit." This contains 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 to help reduce pain.
You may use over-the-counter medication to ease pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your health care provider before using acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding.
An antibiotic will be prescribed. Take it exactly as directed. Don’t miss any doses.
Call 911 if any of these occur:
Swelling spreads to the upper half of your face or neck
You eyelids begin to swell shut
Headache or a stiff neck
Weakness or fainting
Difficulty swallowing or breathing
Follow up with your dentist or an oral surgeon as advised. Severe cases of cellulitis must be checked again within 24 hours. Once an infection occurs in a tooth, it will continue to 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 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 healthcare provider
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