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Tooth abscess and gum abscess: causes and treatments

One of the most uncomfortable dental problems is infections. A bacterial infection can be caused by many factors, and it can damage your teeth and gums while producing severe pain. It is important to recognize if you have one and contact your dentist for proper dental treatment.

An untreated dental abscess can cause serious oral health problems, like tooth loss and bone loss. It can also cause serious overall health issues if the infection gets to the bloodstream or spread to other areas if you have a weakened immune system.

What are dental abscesses?

An abscess is a pocket of pus, and it is the body’s defense mechanism to naturally protect an infected body part. A mouth abscess is formed when the inside of the mouth is hurt or irritated, and bacteria nests in the wound causing an infection. Once it takes hold, the area becomes swollen and it is filled with a yellowish fluid called pus; if the pus cannot be drained for whatever reason, then the area gets even more swollen and the discomfort becomes a pain.

Depending on the area and the nature of the infection, an abscess can form very quickly or slowly; most commonly, it will take one or two days, or up to a week after the infection starts for you to feel discomfort in the area.

Tooth and gum abscess causes

The most common reason for a dental abscess is bacteria accumulation, plaque and tartar, and tooth decay. It is also possible to have an injury in the gum tissue that gets infected.

Some risk factors that can increase the possibility of suffering an infection are:

  • Maintaining a diet high in sugar.
  • Having poor dental hygiene.
  • Having a dry mouth due to medication or other underlying health conditions.

Types of abscesses: tooth abscess or gum abscess

When talking about mouth abscesses, we can refer to either gum abscesses or tooth abscesses.

Periodontal abscess

A gum abscess, also called a periodontal abscess, is usually caused by an infection in the space between tooth and gum or periodontal pocket. The most common cause is periodontal disease, as bacteria build-up behind tartar and near the gum. It can also be caused by the accumulation of food residue between the teeth and gum and poor oral hygiene. Fortunately, it can be easily prevented with a good cleaning routine and regular checkups.

Periapical abscess

Teeth abscesses, also called a periapical abscess, develop inside the tooth pulp, where the blood vessels and nerves are. A dying or dead nerve ending can get infected. Also, tooth decay and cavities are the most common cause of tooth abscesses. The good news is that if it’s detected early, it can easily be treated with a root canal treatment.

Dental abscess symptoms

There are some symptoms that can show if you have a dental abscess. It is important to look out for these so you can get the appropriate treatment as soon as possible. The most common symptoms of dental abscesses are:

  • Tooth pain or gum pain, which can spread to your neck, ear, or jawbone.
  • Redness around the affected tooth and surrounding tissue.
  • Pain while chewing.
  • Pain or discomfort with hot or cold food.
  • Bad taste in the mouth or unpleasant taste while eating.
  • Fever or high temperature.
  • Face swelling around the cheeks or neck. This swelling can cause difficulty breathing.
  • Pain relief when the abscess ruptures.

If you have a few of these symptoms, it is important to contact your dentist immediately so they can give you the proper diagnosis and medical treatment. A dental abscess is simple to treat, but it is best if it is treated quickly to avoid further and more serious complications.

Dental abscesses treatment

Abscesses are very serious, an untreated infection can eventually propagate to the bloodstream if you have a weaker immune system, which is extremely dangerous. If you are noticing swelling, gum pain, or swollen gum sensitivity, you need to contact your dentist immediately. Dental abscesses can be treated easily, but it depends on the severity of the case.

Dental treatment for dental abscesses

The first thing a dentist will do is drain the abscess, which usually involves puncturing the wound. This is necessary to clean the infection and remove any debris, and you can request topical anesthesia.

Afterward, they will search for the cause of the infection, and depending on its source, they will decide what kind of procedure is more appropriate.

If it is a gum abscess, treatment could be a deep cleaning that removes all plaque and tartar from all around the gum line. Once it is done, the gum infection won’t come back since all the bacteria have been removed.

If it is a tooth abscess, the best solution is a root canal treatment to save the affected tooth. In more severe cases where there is extensive tooth decay, a tooth abscess can cause tooth loss and the dentist will need to perform an extraction. On both occasions, the doctor will provide local anesthesia to numb the area.

Once the procedures are finished, the dentist will recommend taking painkillers and antibiotics to make sure the infection is gone.

Possible treatments for dental abscess at home

If you cannot get a dentist appointment quickly or you need to wait until you can visit the dental practice, there are some home remedies that can calm the pain and reduce the swelling.

You can use a mild water-salt solution to rinse your mouth a few times a day, this may help with the pressure and the pus. Warm salt water is a great and simple remedy since the temperature helps with inflammation, and the salt kills bacteria.

If it is too painful, you can take some over-the-counter medication and painkillers.

Temporarily avoid flossing, drinking, or eating hot or cold foods, and brush your teeth delicately with a soft toothbrush around the affected tooth.

Even if the pain recedes you need to go to the dentist, remember that you are treating the symptom, not the cause. A gum abscess or tooth abscess won’t heal on itself, so you need adequate treatment from a dentist.

Preventing dental abscesses: advice and recommendations

It is possible to prevent bacterial infection in the mouth. Following the next recommendations, you can avoid getting an infected tooth.

Consume sugary or starchy food in moderation. Sugary and starchy food is the main cause of cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease. Bacteria can pass through cavities and infect the dental pulp, causing a tooth abscess that can spread up to the root.

Maintain a good oral hygiene routine. To remove plaque and bacteria is needed regular cleaning. Brush your teeth and gums every day with fluoride toothpaste, floss at least once a day, and don’t forget to use mouthwash. Along with flossing, you can also use an interdental brush that can help you safely remove the rest of the food and bacteria.

Visit your dentist for regular cleanings and checkups. Even if you have a good cleaning routine, a dentist can perform a deep cleaning that is impossible to do at home. These dental procedures are not needed often, but it is recommended at least twice a year to maintain your oral health.


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