A group of infected cartoon teeth are saddened by poor dental hygiene and threatened by the approach of harmful bacteria.

Cavities are bad enough, but did you know there are even worse tooth conditions? One such condition is known as a tooth abscess. This is when the “pulp” of your tooth (the soft tissue inside your tooth’s root) dies and becomes inflamed, resulting in a bacterial infection which leads to the formation of a pocket of pus.

A tooth abscess can be one of the most painful dental conditions there is. If left untreated, a tooth abscess can lead to serious, even life-threatening complications including high fever, cellulitis, and the eventual spreading of the infection to other parts of your body.

For these reasons, it is extremely important that you recognize the symptoms of a tooth abscess early-on, seek immediate dental treatment in the event of a tooth abscess, and become more aware of common risk factors.

Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth

A woman clutches her cheek in pain as a result of a toothache.
The most common and immediately recognizable symptom of an abscessed tooth is a severe, persistent, and throbbing toothache that may radiate to the jawbone, neck, or ear. This pain can become worse when chewing and may extend to your gums.

A tooth abscess may also be characterized by extreme tooth sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, sensitivity to pressure, and facial redness or swelling.

Other common symptoms of an abscessed tooth include:

  • Swollen, red, and inflamed gums
  • Fever
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
  • Bad breath
  • Discolored or loose teeth
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • Sudden rush of foul-tasting, foul-smelling, salty fluid and pain relief if the abscess has ruptured

These symptoms can become bad news for your overall health, so get to a dentist if you are experiencing any of the above, especially in combination.

Common Causes of Tooth Abscess

A tower made up of sugar cubes and saddened, broken, and damaged teeth.
A tooth abscess usually occurs when bacteria makes its way into the living tissue inside, underneath, or around your tooth. Bacteria may enter into the danger zone through chipped or cracked teeth, cracked or broken fillings, or from damage to your gums caused by gum disease or a foreign body like popcorn kernels, sharp chip pieces, or embedded tooth brush bristle.

Your mouth always contains bacteria, but normally it is prevented from invading your living tissue by your solid tooth enamel. If your enamel is damaged or eroded, that’s when bacteria moves in and begins to infect your unguarded tissues.

While it is possible for a tooth abscess to occur even with proper dental hygiene, it is extremely rare. More likely, an increased risk of an abscessed tooth can be linked to the following risk factors:

  • Poor Dental Hygiene: Neglecting to take proper care of your teeth and gums can dramatically increase your risk of developing a tooth abscess and a variety of other tooth and mouth complications. Be sure to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss regularly to keep your teeth and mouth clean and healthy.
  • A High-Sugar Diet: Frequent consumption of sugary foods and beverages, such as sweets and soda, cause the enamel on your teeth to erode more quickly. This can lead to a higher risk of dental cavities, which in-turn can become tooth abscesses. Try to keep your sugar intake to a minimum.
  • Dry Mouth: Dry mouth can be a side-effect of aging and certain medical issues, and it can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay. Be sure to ask your doctor to fully inform you about your medication’s side effects, and don’t hesitate to ask your dentist to recommend a few ways to keep your mouth hydrated as you age.

Prevention and Treatment of Tooth Abscess

A young bearded man happily brushes his teeth to help prevent the onset of tooth decay and other dental hygiene issues.

A dental abscess is usually treated by a root canal or endodontic surgery. The dentist will attempt to remove the harmful bacteria from the empty canals within your tooth before cleaning, shaping, and filling the root canal and eventually sealing the space, usually with a crown or some other type of restoration device. After a brief recovery period, your newly protected tooth will be restored to full function.

Unfortunately however, there are some instances in which your dentist may be unable to save your tooth, and your dentist will be forced to pull the infected tooth before draining the abscess to eliminate the infection. Usually, you will be given antibiotics to prevent the infection from returning or spreading, especially if you have a weakened immune system.

If you can’t get to your dentist right away, there are a few temporary methods of pain relief you can try:

  • Avoid hot or cold foods and beverages to reduce tooth sensitivity
  • Avoid sugary foods or beverages to maintain even acidity levels
  • Rinse with warm salt water frequently to relieve pain from infection
  • Sleep with your head elevated to relieve pressure on your mouth
  • Talk to your doctor about using an over-the-counter pain reliever

Although there are ways to treat dental abscess, you will likely agree that it’s much better to prevent a tooth abscess from ever forming in the first place. Luckily, you can reduce your risk of tooth decay and eventual dental abscesses with the following methods and practices:

  • Use fluoridated drinking water to reinforce your tooth enamel
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste
  • Floss between your teeth daily to eliminate potentially harmful food particles
  • Replace your toothbrush when the bristles become frayed, usually every three months
  • Eat healthy and avoid a high-sugar diet
  • Use an antiseptic or fluoride mouth rinse regularly
  • Visit your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups

What Do I Do If I Suspect a Tooth Abscess?

As we’re sure you understand by now, an abscessed tooth is a serious dental condition that you don’t want ruining your quality of life. As soon as you develop a toothache, schedule an appointment with your dentist. Better safe than sorry!

If you suspect a tooth abscess or if you want to learn more about what you can do to reduce your risk of dental health issues, don’t hesitate to contact the friendly experts at Cirocco today!

You could save yourself days, weeks, even months of pain by getting the problem treated early on so you can once again smile painlessly.

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