What is an Oral Abscess?

 In Patient Education

What is an oral abscess?

An oral abscess is an infection at the root of the tooth or between the gum and the tooth. It’s a result of tooth decay and erosion, which is caused by cavities or poor oral health habits. An abscess creates a pocket of pus on the inside of the teeth, gums, or throat. 

There are three types of abscesses:

  • Gingival abscess: This type of abscess only affects the gum tissue.  
  • Periodontal abscess: This type of abscess starts in the supporting bone tissue structures of the teeth.
  • Periapical abscess: This abscess affects the soft pulp of the tooth.

Causes of Oral Abscesses:

Oral abscesses are caused by bacterial infections that have accumulated in the soft pulp of the tooth.  The soft pulp of the tooth contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue.

Other factors that may cause oral abscesses:

  • Poor dental hygiene:  Not taking proper care of your teeth and gums (i.e. such as not brushing your teeth twice a day and not flossing) can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth abscess, and other dental and mouth complications.
  • High sugar intake:  Frequently eating and drinking foods rich in sugar can contribute to dental cavities and turn into a tooth abscess.

Symptoms That Are Common:

The main symptom of a dental abscess is pain. This pain can be intolerable and frequently gets worse with time. Pain may radiate to your ear, jawbone, and neck.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Pain in the affected area when biting or touching it
  • Sensitivity to cold or hot food and liquids
  • Foul taste in the mouth
  • Fever
  • General unwell feeling
  • Difficulty opening the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing

How to Treat an Oral Abscess:

Oral abscesses do not go away without professional dental intervention. They can spread, leading to more serious conditions such as sinus tracts, cysts, and sepsis. Bacteria from your mouth spreads to other parts of the body. 

Your dentists will assess the severity of your abscess by probing the teeth, taking X-rays, and examining your gums and jawline. Treatments include draining pus from the abscess. This is the only way to remove the infection and prevent further complications. First, a procedure called scaling and root planing will occur to remove any plaque and tartar from above and beneath the gum line. Depending on how severe the abscess is, your dentist may have to perform a root canal or tooth extraction. 

With early detection, treatments for oral abscesses are effective. If you do not get this treated, abscesses can lead to potentially life-threatening infections. 

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