An abscess is a sac of fluid (pus). A dental abscess forms when a tooth or the tissue around it becomes infected with bacteria. The bacteria can enter through a cavity or a crack in a tooth. It can also infect the gum tissue or bone around a tooth. An untreated abscess can cause the loss of the tooth. It can even spread to other parts of the body and become life-threatening.
Toothache, often severe
Tooth pain with hot, cold, or pressure
Pain in the gums, cheek, or jaw
Bad breath or bitter taste in the mouth
Trouble swallowing or opening the mouth
Swollen or enlarged neck glands
The dentist will ask about your symptoms and check your teeth and gums. You will be told if you need any tests, such as dental X-rays.
Treatments for a dental abscess may include:
Antibiotic medicines. These treat the underlying infection.
Pain relievers. These help you feel more comfortable. Your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine for you. Or you may use over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Warm saltwater rinses. These can soothe mild pain and help clear away pus.
Root canal surgery. This may be done if needed to save the tooth. With a root canal, the infected part of the tooth is removed. A special substance is then used to fill the empty space in the tooth.
Draining the abscess. This may be done if needed. Cuts (incisions) are made to let the infected material drain from the tooth.
Removing the tooth. This is done in cases of severe infection that can’t be treated another way.
You may need to be admitted to a hospital if the infection is severe, has spread, or doesn’t respond to treatment.
Call your dentist right away if you have any of the following:
Fever of 100.4°F ( 38°C) or higher
More pain, redness, drainage, or swelling in the treated area
Face or jawbone swelling
Pain that can't be controlled with medicines
To prevent another abscess in the future, keep your teeth clean and healthy. Brush twice a day and floss at least once daily. See your dentist for regular exams and tooth cleanings. And stay away from sugary foods and drinks that can lead to tooth decay.
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