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A tooth abscess is a painful bacterial infection of the inner part of the tooth, i.e. the root of the tooth or the portion between the tooth and the gums. This leads to the accumulation of pus in the center of the tooth which is often called the pulp.

Severe tooth decay is the most common cause of tooth abscess. A dental cavity that is left untreated, gum disease or gingivitis or a chipped or broken tooth are other reasons for tooth abscess.

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Such abnormalities of the tooth provide gaps in the tooth enamel which lets in the bacteria to the inner part of the tooth. The bacterial infection eventually multiples and spreads to the other parts of the tooth such as the tooth roots as well as the bones that support the tooth.

It is essential that an individual suffering from tooth abscess undergoes requisite treatment else it can lead to fatality.

Symptoms of tooth abscess

Some of the signs and symptoms of tooth abscess are listed below:

  • A toothache that is persistent, severe and causes throbbing or gnawing pain is one of the most common symptoms of tooth abscess. Sometimes the toothache may result in pain that is sharp and shooting.
  • The tooth and the gums are increasing sensitive to cold and hot temperatures.
  • Every day processes such as chewing and biting food causes pressure and there is increased sensitivity to this pressure due to tooth abscess that leads to pain.
  • Foul smelling breath
  • Instances of fever
  • The cheeks may swell up or there may general overall swelling of the face in the upper as well as lower jaw
  • There is an increased sense of uneasiness, global discomfort and/or ill feeling
  • The lymph nodes in the neck or under the jaw become swollen and increasingly tender
  • Swollen gums that are increasing reddish in color
  • When the tooth abscess or abscesses burst, then the pain will subside, diminish and gradually fade away. In addition, the pus-like fluids that are present in the tooth and gums suddenly rush out. These fluids have a putrid odor and are foul-tasting.
  • Presence of a perennial bitter taste in the mouth
  • There may be a sore that is open and draining on the gum attached to the infected tooth
  • Untreated cases of tooth abscess may lead to the spread of infection to the jaw and other parts of the neck and head. Eventually it may result in sepsis which is a life-threatening and widespread infection.
  • The root of the tooth dies at the end, but the infection remains and spreads to other parts. A weakened immune system increases the vulnerability of an individual for the infection to spread rapidly and destroy other tissues.

Causes of tooth abscess

Some of the causes and risk factors of tooth abscess are as follows:

  • The tooth pulp is the innermost part of the dental structure. It is soft and contains the connective tissues, the nerves and the blood vessels. Tooth abscess is caused due to the infection of the dental pulp with bacteria.
  • General decay of the tooth or trauma to the tooth in the form of chips or cracks paves the way for the bacteria to enter the tooth. It then slowly spreads to the root of the tooth. This results in inflammation and swelling of the tight space within the tooth. Such inflammation eventually leads to the formation of pus that is forced into a pocket or an abscess at the tip of the root.
  • Inadequate or poor dental hygiene such as no flossing or not brushing the teeth twice a day can lead to several dental problems such as early decay of the teeth, gum decay and diseases and tooth abscesses.
  • A diet that is high in sugar content such as frequent intake of sodas, cookies, sweets and chocolates can lead to dental cavities and thereby increase the risk to develop tooth abscess.
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes or other autoimmune disease can weaken the immune system and increase the risk to develop tooth abscess.

Treatment of tooth abscess

Treatment of tooth abscess involves draining the abscess of the pus and removing the infection. This can be done in the following ways:

  • A root canal is one of the best ways to treat a tooth abscess as well as save the tooth. The root canal procedure involves drilling of the infected tooth, removal of the pulp or the central tissue and draining the abscess. The root canals and the pulp chamber are then filled, closed and sealed. A crown made of gold, porcelain or other substances is used to cap the tooth. If this restored and repaired tooth is properly looked after, then it may last a lifetime
  • In case the tooth cannot be saved, then extraction of the tooth and draining the abscess is the viable treatment method
  • If the infection has remained isolated to one tooth and not spread to nearby areas, then antibiotics are not necessary. In cases, where tooth abscess infection has spread to the other regions, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics to prevent and stop the further spread of infection.
  • During the healing process of tooth abscess treatment, painkillers may be prescribed to counter pain. In addition, rinsing the mouth with warm salt water may be suggested.
  • Prevention of tooth decay is the best way to prevent tooth abscess. A good dental hygiene that involves daily brushing and flossing, changing toothbrushes every few months and regular visits to the dentist for routine check up as well as a balanced and healthy diet is suggested to prevent tooth decay that may lead to tooth abscess.

Tooth abscess Pictures


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