An abscess 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 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 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 of two days or up to a week after the infection starts for you to feel discomfort in the area. The sooner it starts the more severe the infection is.
When talking about mouth abscesses, we can refer to either, gum abscesses or tooth abscesses.
Types of abscesses
A gum abscess usually is caused by an infection in the space between tooth and gum. The most common cause is periodontal disease, as bacteria builds up behind tartar and near the gum. It can also be caused by the accumulation of food residue between the teeth and gum; fortunately it can be easily prevented with a good oral hygiene.
Teeth abscesses develop inside the tooth. A dying or dead nerve ending will eventually get infected; as you might already know, cavities are the most common cause of teeth abscesses. The good news is that if it’s detected early, it can easily be treated with a root canal.
What can we do with an abscess?
Abscesses are very serious; an untreated infection can eventually propagate to the bloodstream which is extremely dangerous. If you notice swelling or experience discomfort or pain you need to contact your dentist immediately.
In the meantime, 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. Even if the pain recedes you need to go to the dentist, remember that you are treating the symptom, not the cause.
The first thing a dentist will do is drain the pus; that usually involves puncturing the wound. Afterwards she will search for the cause of the infection, and depending on its source, will decide what kind of procedure is more appropriate; in the meantime you will probably have to take antibiotics to attack the infection and prevent it from spreading further.