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Everything You Wanted To Know About A Tooth Abscess

Posted by Southeast Family Dental Mar 16,2021

Is the pain in your tooth an ache that will go away or is it something more serious? Find out how to identify, treat and prevent an abscess by reading the guide below.

There is nothing worse than a toothache. To say that a tooth abscess can be painful is an understatement. Usually, they rank highly on the Schmidt Pain Index right between a bullet ant bite and a nettle sting. The key is to spot the signs and speak to a professional right away; however, this is tricky when you don’t understand the warning signals.

Use our trusty guide below to help you deal with an abscess quickly, efficiently and with the minimum of pain.

What Are They?

In simple terms, they are an infection that occurs inside of the tooth. Also known as a periapical or periodontal infection, an abscess usually builds insidiously for years. Then, out of the nowhere, the pain erupts and it feels as if there are razor blades in your mouth. Due to the build-up of bacteria, and the inability of a tooth to swell, the pain is extreme.

A tooth abscess is different to a gum one. With gums, the infection usually takes place between it and the tooth and not inside of the cavity.

How Can You Tell?

You won’t be able to ignore it thanks to the aching pain which accompanies an abscess. The telltale sign is the dull throb which pops up at the beginning of the cycle. Within a short time frame, it will escalate into a sharp pain that you won’t be able to get rid of no matter how hard you try. However, they are not always painful so other symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to cold or hot
  • A swollen upper or lower jaw
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Bad breath
  • Bitter taste A draining sore on the gum
  • Painful chewing or biting

If you experience any of the above, it’s important to contact your dentist as soon as possible. It may not be an abscess, but like anything, the sooner you have it checked out, the better.

What Are The Causes?

Three things generally cause an abscess. The first one is periodontal, or gum disease. Periodontal disease occurs when teeth are not cleaned well enough on a regular basis and bone is lost around the teeth. With less bone to protect the roots from bacteria, infections and abscesses can occur.

The second and more common cause of an abscess is tooth decay. Sugary foods that are rich in refined carbs lead to decay. Again, once the inside of the tooth is open, the bacteria can multiply and work its way deep down causing discomfort. To avoid this, good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are a must. Also, try to avoid excess sugar where possible by cutting down on sweet stuff and passing on processed food.

Last, a form of trauma to the mouth area which causes the tooth to split. Broken teeth have less protection and are vulnerable to infection.

How Does A Dentist Find One And Treat It?

To begin with, your dentist will perform an examination and look for swollen, red gums. If there is lots of pain, they will x-ray your mouth. It’s easy to spot on an x-ray as it shows up as a dark area typically at the end of the root. But, it can also look like a pimple or swelling. Also, they look for the direction of movement. Imagine jamming your finger at it swells up. An abscess is similar but if it happens around the nerve of the tooth, the tooth itself can prevent the swelling. So, it finds another direction in which to move.

There is a range of treatments depending on the pain and severity of the abscess. A round of antibiotics is the least painful method to eliminate the infection but will only last for awhile. For long term treatment, you’ve got three options:

  • A root canal: the canal of your tooth is cleaned and disinfected. The tooth’s pulp and root canals are sealed and capped with a crown.
  • An extraction: the tooth is removed from your mouth. It’s a last resort if it can’t be saved.
  • Periodontal treatment: if the cause is periodontitis (infection of the gums) and not the tooth itself.

Which Is Better?

Although a root canal gets a bad name, it pales in comparison to an extraction. Because it’s a worst case scenario, it’s worth avoiding whenever possible as the root and nerves of the tooth and gum are impacted.

Can You Wait It Out?

No, and there aren’t any home remedies either. Once an infection causes an abscess, you need to contact Southeast Family Dental. But better yet, stay regular with your dental visits to help avoid abscesses from occurring at all!

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