“Tooth abscess” just sounds gross, right?
Well, that’s because it is.
A tooth abscess can be a serious problem. If you don’t take care of it promptly, you may regret it.Creative Commons
Dental Abscess – What It Is?
A tooth abscess sounds like a complex technical term, but it basically means the abscess underneath the affected root and the damaged nerve is full of pus. Caused by a bacterial infection, an abscess can form in different parts of a tooth.
If you think you may have an abscess, it may appear as a small lump in your mouth or moderate to severe swelling in either your mouth or face. On the other hand, it may not even be visible. If you suspect you have one, the best thing to do is visit your dentist.
Dental Abscess Types
When it comes to the different types of abscesses, there are three main types: periodontal, gingival, and periapical.
A gingival abscess (also called a gum abscess) forms on your gum line on the surface of the tissue. Gingival abscess usually occurs because of trauma to the gum, like food getting stuck in the gum line or damage from a toothpick or floss.
These types of abscesses are treatable if caught early. If you were to leave one of these untreated, it can progress to a periodontal abscess.
If an abscess does progress to the periodontal area, that’s when the puss forms in the gum pockets. When this happens, there’s nowhere for the pus to go, so it just spreads to the surrounding areas and even the jaw bone.
A periapical abscess starts in the pulp of the tooth. They form because of tooth decay, which erodes the protective enamel and dentin. This means bacteria can then easily get into pulp, which is where the nerve and the blood supply of the tooth is.
This type of abscess is common in wisdom teeth because they are more difficult to clean because they are way in the back of the mouth. It’s also hard for dentists to notice cavities on wisdom teeth.
What Causes An Abscess Tooth?
There are certain factors that increase your chances of getting a dental abscess.
The most common risk factor is poor oral hygiene. If you don’t take care of your teeth, mouth, and gums, you can end up with a whole slew of problems, including abscesses.
Everyone’s mouth has bacteria — it’s a natural occurrence. So if you’re not cleaning that bacteria out on a regular basis, that can lead to plaque buildup which can lead to tooth decay. When your teeth begin to decay, you could end up with a myriad of oral health issues.
Another risk factor is a poor diet. If you have a high-sugar diet (like candy and most carbonated beverages), you are at a higher risk for a tooth abscess.
If you have a weakened immune system for any reason, such as diabetes or an autoimmune disease, you are also at a higher risk of tooth abscess.
On top of tooth decay, other causes of teeth abscesses include:
- Gum disease
- A cracked or damaged tooth
- Complications from a dental procedure (like implants, root canal, cavity filling, etc)
- Food lodged in your gums and teeth crevices
Obviously, none of these risk factors or common causes mean you will definitely get an abscess, but you should be aware just in case.
Tooth Abscess Symptoms
So if you notice you’re experiencing any of those potential abscess causes or risk factors, you should know what the symptoms are so you can be sure to contact your dentist.
Here are the most common symptoms of a tooth abscess:
- Persistent, often throbbing, tooth pain (it’s typically severe and may expand to your jaw, neck, and/or ear)
- Increased sensitivity to hot and cold foods
- Increased tooth sensitivity when chewing
- A fever
- Swelling of the face and/or cheek
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes (located under your jaw on your neck)
- Salty fluid in your mouth that smells and tastes very bad
Tooth Abscess Treatment
Regardless of the type of tooth abscess or how severe, you should get it treated as soon as possible. If you let it fester, it can lead to many problems and can completely ruin your standard of living.
Abscessed Tooth Dental Treatment
Depending on the type of abscess you have, the dentist or endodontist has a few treatment options.
With a simple abscess, the treatment may be a root canal to remove the infection and save the tooth. However, if it’s a large abscess, it may require drainage first and then a root canal. They’ll make a small cut in your gums to release the pus and then rinse the area.
After they’re done with any cutting procedure, they will seal up the area and place a crown on top of the tooth to protect it.
In the worst case scenario, your tooth can’t be saved. This is when the dental professional will have to extract it, drain the abscess, and rid your mouth of the infection.
Following any procedure, your dentist may give you antibiotics (like amoxicillin, clindamycin, or cephalexin) to keep away the infection.
There are home remedy options for a tooth abscess, like salt water, hydrogen peroxide, and oregano oil. But it may be safest and most efficient to visit your dentist in the first place.
Home Remedies For Tooth Infection
When it comes to any type of health problem, you should always consult a professional. Relying solely on home remedies is, frankly, a bad idea.
However, many people find temporary relief and sometimes improvement with certain home remedies. So here are several you could try if you think you have a tooth abscess.
- Garlic — has anti-inflammatory properties and is a natural antibiotic. You can chew a fresh clove of garlic (spitting and rinsing afterward), mix half a teaspoon of garlic powder with a pinch of table salt and put it on the affected tooth for 10 minutes (rinsing afterward), or rub garlic oil on the affected tooth.
- Oil pulling (ancient Ayurvedic practice) — rinse with one tablespoon of extra virgin coconut oil for 15 minutes, spit, rinse, and repeat twice per day.
- Clove — hold a cotton ball soaked in clove oil on the toothache for a few minutes.
- Hydrogen Peroxide — the disinfectant and antibacterial properties can kill bacteria in the mouth, and it can help with pain and even whitening teeth. Mix two teaspoons of it with one tablespoon of warm water, rinse, spit, and repeat three times a week.
- Apple cider vinegar — ACV has anti-inflammatory and cleaning properties that can help reduce pain. Rinse with one tablespoon of ACV for a few minutes, spit, rinse, and repeat a few time per day.
- Saltwater — salt water is a well-known home remedy for many oral problems because of its antiseptic and antibacterial properties. It can help get rid of the infection and cut down on inflammation. Mix one teaspoon of salt with warm water, rinse, spit, and repeat two to three times per day.
- Turmeric — like garlic, turmeric is a natural antibiotic. To use, mix one teaspoon of turmeric powder with water, making a paste. After you brush your teeth (morning or evening), rub the paste onto the affected tooth and let sit for 20 minutes. Then rinse and spit.
- Oregano oil — high in antioxidants, oregano oil can help an abscessed tooth and give a little umph to your immune system. Put a couple drops of it on the affected tooth and let it sit for 15 minutes. Repeat a few times per day.
Tooth Abscess Pain
The best way for immediate relief of abscess tooth pain is drainage of the pus, which should only be done by your dentist or endodontist. Sometimes, the abscess will burst and the pus will drain out on its own, but this could lead to further complications and is not preferable.
Other things that can help relieve pain include over-the-counter pain medicine (usually 600-800 mg of Ibuprofen), antibiotics (from your dentist), ice packs on your cheek over the affected tooth, and most of the home remedies listed above.
Abscessed Tooth Dangers And Complications
If you don’t treat a severe tooth abscess right away, it could become such a big problem that the result could be a perforated bone and damaged soft tissue. This can lead to osteomyelitis and/or cellulitis. From there, it can spread to other parts of your body.
An abscess may start as a boil full of pus, but it could burst inside the tooth or gum tissue. This may relieve some of the pain, but it’s still important to see your dentist. If the drainage occurs internally, it’s likely this could lead to an infection, which could spread throughout the rest of your mouth tissue.
In turn, this can lead to a blood infection called septicemia, a brain abscess (very rare), or meningitis, al of which may require an emergency room visit.
Dental Abscess Prevention
If this info is concerning to you, you may be wondering, “Can I prevent an abscessed tooth?”
Yes, you can. Here are some simple preventative steps you can take:
- Visit the dentist for a standard checkup twice a year
- Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss every day
- Schedule a dentist appointment as soon as you become concerned with any aspect of your oral health
- Don’t eat too many sugary foods and drinks
A tooth abscess is not only gross, but it’s also a serious problem if left untreated. It can be painful and it can lead to other oral issues, and even death in rare cases. So if you believe you have a tooth abscess, it’s best to visit your dentist as soon as possible.