A tooth abscess is essentially a pocket of pus that has been caused by a bacterial infection. There are two general types of abscesses: a periapical abscess, which occurs at the tip of the root, and a periodontal abscess, which occurs in the gums at the side of a tooth root. Since periapical abscesses are much more common, today’s blog will focus primarily on them. Learn more below from our Hudson NC emergency dentists.
A periapical tooth abscess is usually the result of an untreated dental cavity, injury, or prior dental work. It occurs when bacteria invade the dental pulp, the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. The bacteria enter through a cavity, chip, or crack in the tooth, and spread all the way down to the root, causing swelling, inflammation, and pain. The primary symptom of a tooth abscess is a severe, persistent, throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear, as well as tender, swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck. Patients might also experience fever or difficulty breathing or swallowing.
If you suspect you have the beginnings of a tooth abscess, see an emergency dentist immediately. If you have a fever and swelling in your face and your dentist cannot be contacted, go to an emergency room. These symptoms may indicate that the infection has spread deeper into your jaw and surrounding tissue or even to other areas of your body. If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, a dental abscess can become life-threatening.
The first step in treating a tooth abscess is draining it and washing it with a saline solution. Then, in most cases, your dentist will attempt to save the tooth (and eliminate the infection) by performing a root canal. In some cases, a root canal may be enough to save the tooth; but in other cases, the tooth may need to be extracted. Finally, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics if the infection has spread, or is likely to spread, beyond the abscessed area. He or she may also recommend antibiotics if you have a weakened immune system.
It is crucial to understand that a tooth abscess will not go away without treatment. Even after it ruptures, you will still need dental treatment, as the infection may spread to your jaw and to other areas of your head and neck. You might even develop sepsis — a life-threatening infection that spreads throughout your body. For all these reasons, it is important to call a Hudson emergency dentist immediately if you are experiencing any symptoms of a possible tooth abscess. To contact our office, click here.