Dr. Michael Handler

7 Facts About Dental Abscesses - and How to Treat Them

By Dr. Michael Handler

A dental abscess is one of the most painful conditions you can develop, not to mention the inconvenience and the risk to your health. As with so many things in life, prevention beats curing an abscess hands down, however, which is why regular dental checkups are so important. There are also many other things you can do to avoid getting an abscess in the first place. 

We’ve put together these facts about abscesses to help increase your knowledge of what causes them, the symptoms to watch for, and what you can do if you’re concerned about the possibility of developing one.  

#1: What’s a Dental Abscess?

A dental abscess is an infection that develops in the mouth, affecting the teeth and gums. A pocket forms in the oral tissues, which fills up with pus caused by the bacteria that gets into cracks and chips created by tooth decay. 

#2: What Are the Types of Abscesses?

You get two main types of dental abscesses. A periapical abscess forms inside the tooth near the root, and then spreads to nearby bone. A periodontal or gum abscess is an infection that starts in the space between a tooth and the gum when food gets caught there and bacteria builds up. You can also get a gingival abscess which only affects the gum tissue, not the teeth. 

#3: How Quickly Can a Dental Abscess Form?

Abscesses can develop in as little as one or two days after the first signs of an infection. You may not even be aware of them at first, and if untreated they can grow and last for months or even years. 

#4: What Are the Signs of an Abscess?

Often, the first sign you’ll see of a dental abscess is severe, lasting pain coming from a part of your mouth. You might also develop a fever, sleeplessness, problems chewing or swallowing, and become sensitive to hot or cold food and drinks. 

Your gums could turn red and inflamed, swell up or develop a small, red, painful bump near the abscessed tooth. Sudden bad breath, a bitter taste in your mouth, or swelling of your face or jaw are also signs you need to get urgent medical care. 

#5: Can Abscesses Be Prevented?

Avoiding tooth decay is essential to preventing a dental abscess, which is caused by bacteria accumulating in the soft tooth pulp. This pulp contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues, which can all get damaged by an infection. Take good care of your teeth to avoid tooth decay, by brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and flossing or rinsing with products recommended by your dentist. Try to avoid food and drinks that have high sugar content, and clean your teeth if you indulge so you don’t leave sticky residue behind that can cause plaque. 

#6: How is a Dental Abscess Diagnosed?

If you start experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, schedule an appointment with your dentist for an examination. We’ll start by checking out your teeth and investigating any areas that are swollen and red. X-rays might be necessary to look for erosion and bone damage under the gums, and we’ll look at any painful areas to see if they indicate an abscess. If the examination shows you have an abscess, we’ll recommend a treatment plan for you. 

#7: What Treatment Do I Need for An Abscess?

Since an abscess is a collection of pus, treatment starts with draining the pus away from the abscess to remove the infection and prevent complications. Once this is done, the plaque that caused the bacterial infection is removed using scaling and root planing procedures. If the infection is severe, you might need to have root canal therapy or even a tooth extraction. Once the abscess has been successfully removed, you might also need antibiotics to clear up the infection in your system. 

An abscess can cause you serious health problems, so it’s vital to get it seen to as soon as you suspect it exists. For more information on how dental abscesses develop and ways to prevent them, please book an appointment with our dentists in Scarborough at 416-267-4661, or click here to book online


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