An Abscessed Tooth: The Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

An abscessed tooth is a leading reason adults seek emergency dental care, though often many people wait until much longer than necessary to seek treatment from a dentist. If you’re not sure if you have an infection in the tooth or gum, Dr. Hamby, a leading Fuquay-Varina dentist, is sharing everything you need to know about an abscessed tooth, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment.

What Is an Abscessed Tooth?

An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus and infection that forms within the tooth or the gums, often originating from a bacterial infection. Bacteria thrive in plaque, the colorless, sticky material that is formed from food particles and saliva. When the bacteria isn’t removed by regular brushing and flossing, it can enter into the soft tissue of the teeth and gums, especially if there is decay to the tooth that allows bacteria to reach the pulp deep within the tooth.

There are three types of dental abscesses:

  • Periapical: an abscess located at the tip of the inside of the tooth’s root, within the pulp. They are generally caused when decay allows bacteria into the pulp;
  • Periodontal: an abscess on the gum next to the root and often starts in the bone tissue and pushes outward to the surrounding tissue; These are often caused when the periodontal ligament keeping the tooth in place separates slightly from the root, creating a small gap and allowing bacteria to settle.
  • Gingival: An abscess on the gums that can be caused by irritation, injury, or gum disease.

Regardless of what type of abscess you have or where it’s located, it’s important to seek emergency dental care as soon as possible. If left untreated, the abscess can spread and lead to serious complications, including tooth loss, sinus complications, osteomyelitis, and in rare cases, they can be fatal.

 Signs Your Tooth Is Abscessed

There are two major signs you have an abscessed tooth. The first is a severe, throbbing pain in the affected area that may radiate to the ear, jawbone, and down the neck. You may also see a swollen area on the gum line near where the pain is localized, or there may be swelling on the jaw. Additional symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Fever
  • A foul or bitter taste in the mouth
  • Swollen glands
  • General unwell feeling

Common Treatments for an Abscessed Tooth

If you suspect your tooth is abscessed, you need to call your dentist immediately to get the proper care. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the abscess as well as the extent of any decay, but may include:

  • Antibiotics to kill any infection;
  • Draining the abscess to remove the pus from around the gum and relieve pain from the nerve;
  • Root canal to remove the infected pulp and nerve;
  • Removing the tooth if the decay is severe;

At-Home Treatment for Dental Abscess

While you need to be seen by a dentist, if they can’t see you for a few hours or until the next day, there are some home remedies you can use to reduce pain.

  • Rinsing your mouth with salt water: ½ teaspoon to ½ cup of warm water;
  • Applying a cold compress to the area;
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medication, like ibuprofen;

Call Us When You Need an Emergency Dentist

Don’t put off getting the care you need for an abscessed tooth! Call our emergency dentist today to get effective treatment and minimize your risk of complications. To schedule an appointment or learn more about our services, reach out to us at  919-552-2431 or fill out the form below to learn more.

Appointment Request

  • By submitting this form, you are consenting to our privacy policy.