Do you feel extreme pain and sensitivity when chewing? Bad breath? A bad taste in your mouth? Facial swelling and fever? These could indicate dental abscess symptoms. A dental abscess is a condition that causes bacteria to create a pocket of pus building up around the tooth.
If you have an abscessed tooth, you may have several questions in your mind. Is it a serious dental issue that requires immediate treatment? Can it cause sepsis? While an abscessed tooth is not a dental emergency, it can be .
How a Tooth Abscess Is Formed
An untreated cavity can increase your risk of tooth abscess. Without prompt treatment, harmful oral bacteria enter the cavity and cause further damage to the tooth until the decay reaches the nerves and blood vessels in the inner chamber. This results in infection in the pulp canal system and spreads to the tip of the tooth root in the jawbone, causing pain, swelling, and redness in the gums.
Other causes of a tooth abscess include cracked or fractured tooth, gum disease, severe tooth decay, and severe trauma or problems with an existing root canal.
There are 3 different types of abscessed teeth (depending on their location) and their causes:
- Periapical Abscess – The abscess found at the tip of the tooth root is caused when the bacteria the pulp, a soft, inner part of the teeth comprised of nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels, through a cavity.
- Periodontal Abscess – This type is often caused by gum disease or gum injury. The abscess can develop on the gum next to the tooth root. However, it could potentially spread to the surrounding bone and tissue.
- Gingival Abscess – The abscess on your gums is often caused by a foreign material that gets embedded in the gums.
Dangers of Untreated Dental Abscess
Unlike a hand or leg infection, a dental abscess does not heal on its own. Delaying treatment can frequently worsen the pain, sensitivity, and swelling and redness of the gums. Treatment of dental abscess includes antibiotics to control the infection and symptoms.
Choosing to ignore a dental abscess could result in minor to serious health conditions, including:
- Tooth Loss – With early diagnosis and treatment, the infected tooth can be saved through root canal treatment and a crown. The untreated abscess could lead to the weakening of the tooth and spread of the infection, resulting in loss of the infected tooth. Although dental implants and other tooth replacement treatments may help restore your oral function, these treatments are only possible if there is adequate bone left to support the implant.
- Infection of the Surrounding Bone – Long-term infection can have a debilitating impact on your facial bone (the maxilla and mandible, in particular). Once infected, it could require the surgical removal of the bone to stop the spread of the infection. Even in cases where surgical treatment is unnecessary, the infection could still cause the bones to become weakened, making it more impossible for the jaw to support the teeth.
- Oral Soft Tissues and Sinus Infection – Since the upper teeth roots extend into your sinus area, the abscess could trigger a painful sinus infection. Also, when the infection spreads to the oral soft tissues and surrounding areas, it could cause several complications, including facial cellulite and problems with the airway.
- Septicemia – Septicemia is a life-threatening complication of an untreated tooth abscess. It means the infection has spread throughout the entire body. Septicemia due to a tooth abscess is caused by a ruptured pocket of pus, spilling into the blood and circulating throughout the body. This serious condition would require costly and long-term hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics to control the infection.
- Brain Infection – Lack of treatment could cause the infection to enter the brain, usually by one of the complications mentioned above. Abscess in the brain is a serious condition that requires hospitalization. However, this brain abscess is difficult to treat due to the blood-brain barrier.
Treatment and Prevention of Tooth Abscess
Briefing yourself on the possible dangers of a dental abscess can help save your tooth and perhaps even your life. That is why you should never ignore the symptoms of a dental abscess like facial and jaw swelling.
To treat an abscessed tooth, the dental health professional needs to clear up the infection to relieve the pain. Determining the exact location of the tooth abscess requires an x-ray examination. It will also help the dentist find out if the infection has spread to other areas.
Luckily, various treatments are available to treat a dental abscess. However, treatment options depend on the type and severity of the abscess.
- Dental Abscess Drain – A small cut is made in the abscess to drain the pus. A saline solution is used to clean the infected area.
- Antibiotics – The dentist often prescribes oral antibiotics to a patient with a weakened immune system. Antibiotics help stop the infection from spreading to other areas.
- Tooth Extraction – Tooth extraction may be required if the tooth is severely damaged. Following the removal of the damaged tooth, the dentist proceeds to drain the abscess.
- Root Canal Procedure – To drain the abscess, the dentist will drill into the affected tooth to remove the infected pulp and fill and seal the chamber, which holds both pulp and root canal. A dental crown is placed to cap and strengthen the tooth. However, you will need to make a separate appointment for the crown procedure.
If you cannot visit your dentist right away, taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pill, such as ibuprofen, provides temporary relief from pain. You can also rinse your mouth with a warm saltwater solution to control the pain and infection.
The infection caused by a tooth abscess should clear up a few days following the treatment. Make sure to visit your dentist for a follow-up checkup to ensure that the infection does not spread to other areas. To reduce the risk of dental abscess in your child, teach them the importance of good oral hygiene, such as brushing twice daily and flossing, and regular dental visits every six months.
Do not let an abscessed tooth affect the quality of your life. Cosmo Dental Centre is a trusted family dental clinic in London, Ontario, that offers comprehensive oral care services to keep your oral health in tip-top shape. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff ensures that you will have a comfortable and convenient visit. Call us today at (519) 659-2767 for your inquiries or book an appointment online.