Bacteria infection, an untreated dental cavity, injury, or prior dental work are the major causes of a dental abscess. A dental abscess is a buildup of pus that occur in different tooth regions. There are different dental abscesses that are identified depending on the area they occur. For example, a periodontal abscess affects the gum at the side of the root canal, while a periapical abscess occurs at the top of the tooth root.

Having an untreated dental abscess can cause life-threatening complications which is why it is advisable to seek dental treatment right after realizing you may have a dental abscess. The treatment for this condition is less complicated and if treated early, you may not need to have your tooth pulled. If you notice a pimple on your gum or have a throbbing toothache that is persistent, contact our caring and experienced dental experts at The Whittier Dentist right away. We offer emergency dental treatment services throughout the city of Whittier, CA.

What is a Dental/Tooth Abscess?

A dental abscess is a pocket of pus caused by a bacteria infection causing pain and swelling on the gum or tooth root and it requires immediate treatment. This infection mainly occurs around the root canal that has connective and nerve tissue, and blood vessels. The infection can also occur in between the tooth and gum area.

When a broken or chipped tooth is left unattended, it is likely to cause tooth decay or cavity which may then result in dental abscess if left untreated. If the abscess is not attended to immediately, the infection can spread from the root of the tooth to the jaw which can cause tooth loss or let the infection spread to various parts of the body.

There are various types of tooth infections that can lead to dental abscesses. They include:

  • Periapical — This is a type of infection that occurs at the root’s tip. It mainly results from an infection and it can spread. It can easily move to the inside part of the tooth through a cavity or fracture. When bacteria affect the pulp which contains blood vessels and nerves, they can easily spread to the tip of the tooth root causing an abscess.
  • Gingival — This is an infection that occurs in the gums and it does not tamper with the tooth. However, if left untreated, it causes an abscess.
  • Periodontal — This is a common infection among adults and it begins by affecting the tissues and bones supporting the tooth. Gum diseases and periodontitis are the main causes of periodontal abscess.

Who is Likely to get a Dental Abscess?

Although anyone can get a tooth infection, there are people who are more vulnerable to the abscess than others. These people include:

  • People with a dry mouth — Bacteria thrive in mouths where the saliva quantity is lower than normal.
  • Smokers — People who smoke are more likely to have a tooth infection compared to those who do not smoke.
  • People with a weak immune system — If a disease or medication has weakened your immune system, you may be vulnerable to a tooth infection since your system may not be able to fight off germs and bacteria.
  • Individuals with poor dental hygiene — Bacteria will thrive in a poorly cleaned mouth. Flossing and brushing your teeth regularly reduces bacteria.

Causes of Dental Abscess

There are several factors that can lead to a tooth infection. They include:

  • Cracked, chipped, or broken tooth — Bacteria is more likely to thrive in an opening in the tooth or um and spread to the pulp.
  • Tooth decay — A severe tooth cavity or decay causes destruction on the tooth’s surface. When food and drink sugar is broken down by the bacteria, it produces acid that is likely to harm the enamel.
  • Tooth injury — A slight trauma to your tooth is likely to cause harm to the pulp even with o visible damage. The injured inner pulp is vulnerable to infection.
  • Periodontitis/ gum disease — This is an inflammation or infection on the teeth’s tissue and as the gum disease becomes severe, the bacteria spreads to the deeper tissues.
  • Excess sugar and starch consumption — When you consume a lot of starchy and sugary foods, you create room for bacteria to grow in plaque which can, in turn, lead to a dental abscess.
  • Previous tooth surgery — If your tooth is damaged either by previous surgery or injury, it makes it easy for bacteria to grow and spread leading to a dental abscess.
  • Weak immune system — If you have any underlying health conditions like diabetes or undergoing chemotherapy, you could have a poor immune system that can lead to tooth infection.
  • Having poor oral hygiene — Failing to brush or floss your teeth regularly can cause plaque build-up on your tooth.
  • Lack of regular dental checkups.

Symptoms of Dental Abscess

Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of dental abscess:

  • Severe tooth sensitivity to cold or hot temperature
  • Fever
  • Prolonged, throbbing toothache that radiates to the jawbone, or ear
  • Tooth sensitivity when biting or chewing
  • Difficulty in swollen or breathing
  • Swelling on your cheek or face
  • Swollen lymph nodes on the neck or below your jaw
  • If the abscess ruptures, you will experience a sudden foul-tasting or smelling and a salty fluid in your mouth
  • A Discolored and tender tooth
  • Bad breath
  • Severe pain when you lie down which may lead to a lack of sleep
  • Redness on your face in the tooth area
  • Bitter taste in your mouth
  • A draining sore on the gum
  • Parulis/A gum boil (tender red papule on the inner part of the cheek, between or outside the gum

On rare occasions, a person with a dental abscess may also experience the following:

  • Trismus/lockjaw
  • Cellulitis on the skin
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty in talking
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing

You are also likely to experience general discomfort and ill-feeling if the abscess is widely spread.

How to Diagnose an Abscessed Tooth

The first thing that your dentist will do to determine if you have any signs of tooth infection is to examine your tooth and its surrounding. After that, he may:

  • If the infection has spread to the neck area, he may recommend you to undergo a CT scan to check the severity of the infection.
  • If he noticed signs of a dental abscess, he may recommend an X-ray to check if the infection has spread to other parts of the mouth/body and to also determine the source or what could have caused the infection.
  • Recommend thermal tests to determine if the pulpal tissues have been infected.
  • Tap and press test. This test is used to check your tooth sensitivity since an abscessed tooth is usually very sensitive to touch.

Treatment for Dental Abscess

There are different types of treatment used to eliminate and prevent the spread of the infection. They include:

  • Tooth extraction. Sometimes, when the infection is widely spread and severe, it may be hard for the dentist to save the tooth. The only available treatment may be pulling or extracting the tooth to allow pus to drain out.
  • Drainage and incision. In this treatment method, your dentist will make a small cut/incision in the affected area to drain out the pus. The dentist may also place a rubber drain in the socket to allow the pus to keep draining.
  • Antibiotics. Antibiotics may not be necessary if the infection is not widely spread. However, your dentist may recommend you to take the to help with your dental treatment. Note that even though antibiotics can help in finishing the remaining bacteria, they cannot fight off the cause of the infection.
  • Root canal. This is a common procedure that helps you save your tooth and eliminate the bacteria. During this procedure, your dentist will remove the inner pulp that is infected and fill it up with material to stop another infection. Note that even though the inner pulp is essential to the tooth, it is only crucial during the tooth growth and a tooth can survive without it once it is done. Your dentist may recommend that you get a crown to safeguard the root canal after the procedure. When undergoing this procedure you will be administered a local anesthetic to make the infected part numb.

At-Home Treatment for Dental Abscess

Some people use clove oils to relieve the sensitivity and pain caused by a dental abscess. However, a dental abscess cannot be fully treated at home and only a qualified delta expert can be able to treat the abscesses. If you keep relieving the pain and leaving the abscess untreated, it can cause serious complications to your health or develop secondary infections. It can also lead to the loss of your jaw bone.

Complications Associated with Dental Abscess

On rare occasions, a dental abscess can lead to several complications which is why you should ensure that your abscessed tooth is treated by a certified dentist. Some of these complications include:

  • Parapharyngeal abscess — This is an infection that occurs near the throat, and back of the mouth. It is mainly caused by a bacteria called streptococcal/staphylococcal and it affects most children below five years.
  • Osteomyelitis — This is a serious condition caused by an underlying bone infection
  • Cellulitis — This is a condition that occurs when the subcutaneous tissues and the skin have an infection
  • Ludwig’s angina — This infection is also referred to as submandibular space/submandibular cellulitis infection. It occurs when cellulitis affects the chin, tongue, and lower jaw.
  • Sepsis
  • Cavernous sinus thrombosis — This occurs when the infection affects the sinuses' blood vessels on the head.
  • Blood infection

How to Prevent Dental Abscess

Did you know that keeping your teeth and gum clean and healthy helps prevent dental abscesses? Here are a few tips to help you maintain abscess free teeth:

  • Use fluoride toothpaste to brush your teeth twice a day for 2 minutes
  • Use an interdental brush or floss once a day to clean the line under the gum and between the teeth
  • Eliminate starch and sugar in your food and drinks as much as possible, especially before going to bed and between meals
  • Avoid using mouthwash or water to rinse your mouth after brushing. This is because rinsing takes away protective toothpaste. Just spit the toothpaste after brushing your teeth
  • Have regular dental checkups. Depending on your oral health, your dentist may suggest the number of checkups you need in a given period
  • Drink water that is fluoridated
  • Replace your toothbrush after every three months or when you notice frayed bristles
  • Use a fluoride mouth rinse if necessary to add a protection layer

How to Relieve Pain from a Dental Abscess

As you wait to see the dentist, you can use painkillers to relieve the pain. There are various painkillers that are used to control abscessed tooth pain but ensure to get a prescription from a certified doctor. Also, note that some painkillers are not recommended for children below 16 years.

Apart from painkillers, there are also ways that can help you control your pain. They include:

  • Avoid cold or hot drinks and food
  • Consume soft food and chew with the uninfected part of the mouth
  • Avoid flossing and use a soft toothbrush

Note that these are not treatment options rather, they are measures to help you control your pain. Thus you should ensure to see a dentist as soon as possible.

How to Prepare for a Dentists Appointment for Dental Abscess

Here are some notes to help you get ready for your dentist’s appointment:

  • List every symptom you experience. Listing your symptoms helps the dentist to know exactly what you are going through. Do not underrate even minor pain in your mouth or any part as it can also help the dentist know the kind of tests to recommend as well as the treatment method.
  • If you have been taking any education to try to relieve the pain, note them down as well as their dosage.
  • List down questions to ask your dentist. For example, you could ask them the following queries:
  1. Which tests will I undergo?
  2. What could be the cause of the symptoms I am experiencing?
  3. Which is the best treatment option?
  4. Is there an alternative to the treatment?

At Home Care After Dental Abscess Treatment

There are different at-home care that you should follow depending on the type of treatment used to treat your abscessed tooth. After undergoing treatment, you are bound to experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Paint. Pain is normal after the procedure but luckily it can go away within an hour after taking painkillers. However, ensure the painkiller is prescribed by your dentist.
  • Bleeding. You may also experience blood oozing from the surgical areas after surgery. If the bleeding is continuous, place a wet black tea bag on the area and apply pressure. If it persists, contact your dentist. The bleeding can last up to a day after surgery.
  • Swelling. Swelling 3 days post-surgery is also normal and you can place ice on the swollen part although it is intuitive to place ice on your face due to the flow of blood. You can also try to elevate your head with pillows as you sleep.
  • The drain. Sometimes your dentist may decide to keep the incision area open to allow drainage and avoid pus from building up. If the drain is not dry within 3 days, ensure you notify your dentist.
  • The nose and sinuses. If the surgery was performed on your upper jaw, the surgery occurred near the nose and sinuses and you may experience some swelling in the area and could also experience some difficulty in breathing. You can use a decongestant to help in clearing your nose and avoid bending over, sneezing with the nose, or blowing your nose for up to 6 weeks after surgery.
  • Diet. Avoid hot, spicy, and crunchy foods after the surgery. Eat cool, soft, and easy to chew foods. Also, avoid using straws to drink.
  • Hygiene. After your surgery, only use warm water to rinse your mouth after meals and resume normal bruising after two days.
  • Activity. Avoid strenuous activities or exercise for a week after your surgery. Try not to sake or use drugs until you are healed.
  • Follow up. Ensure to attend all your follow-up appointments to avoid complications and make your healing process easier.

Be sure to look out for any complications and call your dentist as soon as you notice any complications like prolonged bleeding or numbness.

Dental Abscess FAQS

Is dental abscess dangerous?

If your dental abscess is properly treated, it cannot cause any complications. But, if it is left untreated, it can cause life-changing complications.

Is dental abscess contagious?

  • NO. A dental abscess is an infection that cannot be passed from one person to another.

What is pericoronitis?

This is an infection that affects an unerupted tooth and it mainly affects impacted wisdom teeth. When the gum above an unerupted tooth breaks, bacteria thrive in the damaged tissue which later causes an infection. The major symptoms of pericoronitis include fever, pain when you open your mouth, pain in the jaw, swelling, and bad breath.

Are dental abscesses always visible?

  • NO. Although some dental abscesses form a gum boil, there are others that are not visible on the gum or any part of the mouth. That is why if you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you should visit your dentist to determine the cause of the symptoms.

Are dental abscesses always soft?

  • NO. Even though most dental abscesses are soft and tender to touch, there are times when they can feel hard. If you experience any of the symptoms above plus a hard lump in your mouth, ensure to seek help from your dentist.

Can a dental abscess appear under my tongue?

This could be Ludwig's angina which is cellulitis caused by a severe dental abscess that appears below the lower jaw, or under the tongue. This condition is a medical emergency and if affected, you should seek immediate medical help.

Can trauma to the mouth result in dental abscess?

Yes. An injury or trauma to the mouth can result in a dental abscess. Wear and tear caused by clenching teeth can also damage the tooth’s structure leading to a dental abscess.

Can a tooth infection disappear on its own?

No. A tooth infection cannot disappear on its own. The pain may stop but the infection can only be treated. In most cases, when the pain disappears, it could be an indication that the pulp found on the inner part of the tooth is dead. However, the bacteria may keep spreading and destroying the tissues surrounding the tooth. Be sure to visit your dentist if you suspect having a dental abscess.

What should I eat after a dental abscess treatment?

It is advisable to eat soft and easy to chew since your mouth will likely be in pain. Foods like smoothies, mashed potatoes, yogurt, or scrambled eggs may be the most suitable. Ensure to also remain hydrated and avoid hard and very sugary drinks.

Are there predisposing factors to dental abscesses?

Yes. There are medications and underlying medical conditions which predispose people to dental abscesses. For example:

  • people with sickle cell anemia
  • People living with HIV
  • People with steroids
  • People under immunosuppressive medication

Can wisdom teeth be affected by dental abscesses?

Yes. Wisdom teeth develop in late adolescence and sometimes impaction may occur since there is not enough space in the mouth for them. Since the impaction can take place at any age, it means that the teeth can at times get stuck under the gum surface and although this does not pose any risk, it can lead to pericoronitis which may cause a dental abscess.

Find a Dentist Near Me

An untreated dental abscess can cause serious complications to your oral and overall health. If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of a dental abscess, visit a dentist immediately. Our dental experts at The Whittier Dentist have experience treating a dental/tooth abscess and helping patients prevent future infections. Give us a call today at 562-632-1223 and let us help improve your oral health.