An abscessed tooth is a collection of pus that results from infection. It can occur either at the root of the tooth or between the gum and the tooth. It can be caused by breaking or chipping of the tooth, gingivitis, gum disease, a failed root canal, or most commonly, tooth decay. Something like an untreated tooth cavity or a crack in the tooth can cause openings in the tooth enamel, where bacteria can then infect the pulp of the teeth. This can also be spread from the tooth to the booths underneath that are supporting the teeth.
The most common symptom is severe pain, almost like a toothache. It will hurt to bite or chew. Accompanied with this are fever, throbbing, sensitivity to hot and cold, and redness and swelling. There are a few smaller abscesses that come with no pain, but will still swell. Victims may also experience a bitter taste in their mouth, foul breath, and even swelling in their neck glands, jaw, and the gums. Sometimes there is a visible sore on the side of the gum line that is caused by the abscess. Serious cases may experience nausea and vomiting.
Dentists can spot abscesses by using x-ray and identifying areas of tooth erosion. Abscesses can usually be detected simply by physical examinations or with light tapping on the tooth by a dentist, to which the victim will respond with pain. To follow up, a dentist may use an electric tester in order to check the health of the tooth before determining if there is an abscess or any other disease.
Getting rid of a tooth abscess requires medical help. There are several different procedures that a patient can undergo. If the tooth can be saved, then a root canal will be performed. The tooth will be drained, and then a crown will be placed over the tooth. If the tooth cannot be saved, it will be extracted, letting the abscess drain itself. With these medical procedures, dentists will prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection and speed the recovery process. An abscess can break by itself, in which case steps should be taken to keep the area clean and encourage drainage. Even if it has broken on its own, a visit with a dentist is still important, as there may be additional medication or instructions to follow.
The pain of an abscess can also be temporarily remedied by avoiding hard, extremely hot, or extremely cold foods, rinsing the mouth with salt water solutions, and taking an over-the-counter painkiller such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve). Its important to note that these treatments are only for temporary pain relief and do not replace seeking professional help in getting rid of a tooth abscess.
Avoiding a tooth abscess is the best treatment. In order to prevent tooth decay, it is important to remember to brush and floss daily, eat a healthy diet, avoid tobacco products, and get regular dental checkups, where cavities can be treated early should any be found.