The Tooth Abscess

Tooth abscesses develop from a bacterial infection that is at the center (the pulp) of the tooth.  They develop as a result of tooth decay, tooth trauma (such as a break or chip), or other factors that lead to exposure of the tooth’s pulp through openings in the tooth’s enamel.  Risk of the infection spreading into the jaw or other areas of the body (as well as sepsis!) is very high.  An infection is present when a collection of dead tissue, bacteria, and white blood cells causes the innards of the tooth to swell, which leads to a toothache.  Infections lead to tissue destruction and further damage.

Why do white blood cells gather?  White blood cells attack bacteria, viruses, and other organisms that do not belong in the body – they are part of your immune system.

You will know that you have an infection, at least, if you have a major toothache.  If the pain never stops and you can describe it as sharp, throbbing, or worse, see your dentist immediately.  Generally, it is a good idea to see a dentist if you have a toothache anyway.

Other symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Bad breath
  • Nausea
  • Discomfort
  • Fever
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Swelling of the gum around the afflicted tooth
  • Pain while chewing
  • Swollen glands and/or jaw

How Does The Dentist Know I Have An Abscess?

When you visit the dentist to see if you have this issue or not, they will look at your mouth, your teeth, and your gums.  They may tap your teeth and ask you to close your mouth tightly and ask you how much pain you’re feeling.  The dentist may ask you to get x-rays taken (most dental offices have this service on-site).  Once the dentist figures out what is wrong, treatment will begin.

How Is An Abscessed Tooth Treated?

You may be prescribed an antibiotic to help eliminate the infection, and you may also be encouraged to rinse with warm salt water to help soothe your mouth.  Pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil), Tylenol, and others can be used to help lessen the pain of the infection.

Some patients have to undergo a root canal to try to save the tooth, and if the infection is bad enough, a trip to the hospital and/or an extraction of the affected tooth will be necessary.  If an abscessed tooth does not get treatment, the repercussions can be devastating.  Complications surrounding untreated infection can lead to loss of the tooth, further infections elsewhere in the body, and even death.

If you are worried that you may have an abscessed tooth or some other oral infection, please see your dentist immediately.  This sort of issue is not to be trifled with and can severely impact other aspects of your health.

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