If you’re experiencing a sudden, searing pain that throbs relentlessly and makes the simplest tasks feel like monumental challenges, you may be experiencing a rather painful tooth abscess.
In this article, we’ll tap into whether you have a tooth infection because of a dental abscess, its causes, symptoms, and the importance of early treatment.
What Is Tooth Abscess?
Any dental abscess is a pocket of pus coming from a bacterial infection. It can form in various parts of your teeth, gums, or even the bone supporting your teeth. Teeth abscesses are primarily the result of poor oral hygiene, untreated tooth decay, or gum disease.
To effectively handle dental abscesses, it all begins with gaining a solid grasp of their characteristics.
The Anatomy of an Abscessed Tooth
Understanding the primary cause of tooth pain is essential. The pain typically originates from the tooth root or the surrounding tissues. When a bacterial infection infiltrates the tooth pulp (the innermost part of your teeth), it leads to inflammation and exerts pressure on the nearby nerves and blood vessels. The moment bacteria invade the nerves and vessels, you start experiencing a throbbing toothache.
Remember that severe tooth pain is the first and most noticeable symptom of a dental abscess. This throbbing pain may intensify when you chew, especially with hot or cold food — often indicating an infection has spread in your mouth.
Tooth Abscess Symptoms
One of the most noticeable symptoms of a dental abscess is swelling. The affected area can become visibly swollen, often leading to tissue swelling in your face.
Such swelling becomes salient when the infection has spread beyond the initial site.
It’s important to note that while you may experience pain relief if the abscess ruptures and pus drains into your mouth, this doesn’t mean the infection is gone. In fact, it remains a dental emergency that requires prompt attention.
Be careful of mistaking temporary relief for a solution — consult your dentist or contact us immediately.
3. Gum Inflammation
Gum inflammation is a common sign of a dental abscess. The gums around the affected tooth may become red, tender, and swollen.
This inflammation is often a result of the tooth infection spreading to the surrounding gum tissues.
4. Bitter Taste
Feeling a bitter taste in your mouth can directly result from the pus drainage associated with an affected tooth.
Such bitterness indicates an ongoing dental issue that needs professional treatment.
5. Difficulty Eating
An infected tooth can make eating solid foods challenging, which often requires switching to soft foods to minimise discomfort.
If you’re avoiding certain foods due to dental pain, it’s time to consult a professional dentist.
6. Swollen Lymph Nodes
In severe situations, the infection can extend to your neck, upper, or lower jaw. Swollen lymph nodes are your body’s way of responding to the infection, signalling that the problem has escalated.
What Causes Tooth Abscesses?
1. Untreated Tooth Infection
One of the primary causes of tooth abscesses is untreated tooth infections. When a tooth becomes infected, typically due to tooth decay or a fracture that exposes the inner pulp, bacteria multiply within the affected area.
Without timely intervention, this infection can spread to the root of the tooth, ultimately forming an abscess.
2. Bacterial Invasion
Tooth infection spreads when the bacteria get through the nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels.
This invasion can result from untreated dental cavities, fractures, or injuries compromising the tooth’s protective layers.
3. Poor Oral Hygiene
Neglecting your regular dental care routine is another leading cause of tooth abscesses. Bad oral hygiene creates an environment where bacteria can thrive, potentially infiltrating the tooth’s structure.
4. Connective Tissue Diseases
Connective tissue diseases — encompassing a range of autoimmune disorders — can compromise your body’s ability to fight infections effectively.
As a result, even minor dental issues can escalate into serious infections if you have an underlying tissue disease.
Types of Dental Abscesses
1. Periapical Abscess
Periapical abscesses affect the tooth’s root and are often the result of untreated tooth decay. This type of abscessed tooth typically causes localised pain and discomfort.
2. Periodontal Abscess
Periodontal abscesses originate in the gum’s soft tissues and can result from gum disease or a foreign object lodged between the teeth. Such tooth infection often leads to gum swelling and tenderness.
Is It Urgent to Seek Dental Treatment for Abscesses?
Untreated abscess can have dire consequences, especially if you’ve got a weakened immune system. Because bacteria don’t stop there; they can permeate any surrounding tissue, bone, and even your sinus cavity.
Abscesses can pose life-threatening complications in severe cases as one of the widely known odontogenic infections.
Seeking Relief and Dental Care
If you experience a painful tooth abscess, do not delay. Let a professional dentist determine the most appropriate approach to provide your pain relief and treatment, which may include:
- Drainage. In some cases, the abscess may need to be drained to remove pus and relieve pressure.
- Antibiotics. Medications may be prescribed to manage the infection.
- Root canal treatment. This procedure entails removing the infected pulp and sealing the tooth to save it from extraction.
- Tooth extraction. In case your tooth suffers severe damage, extraction becomes necessary.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?
Here’s what to expect when having your infected tooth diagnosed:
- Visual inspection. Your dentist will scrutinise your teeth to detect symptoms of infection, including swelling, redness, and pus around the affected tooth or surrounding gum tissue.
- Probing. To assess the extent of the infection, your dentist may gently probe the affected tooth and surrounding areas to see if there’s an abscess and draining through the gum tissue.
- Review of symptoms. Your professional dentist will also ask you to describe your exact feelings. At that point, any swelling or fever is essential for figuring out what’s going on.
- X-Ray imaging. Using X-rays, your dental professional can reveal pockets of infection, bone loss, and the extent of damage to the affected tooth, which is crucial for planning appropriate treatment.
- Pulp vitality tests. Occasionally, pulp vitality tests may be conducted, especially when the tooth’s pulp is affected. These tests assess the health of the pulp and help determine if root canal treatment is necessary.
- Sensitivity tests. Your dentist may use various stimuli, such as temperature or pressure, to assess your tooth’s sensitivity. An abscessed tooth may exhibit heightened sensitivity or discomfort in response to these stimuli.
How can I prevent tooth abscesses?
- Brush two times a day. Use effective kinds of toothpaste (i.e., fluoride toothpaste) while brushing your teeth.
- Floss every day. Regular flossing removes food particles and bacteria between teeth and gum lines.
- Limit sugary foods. High-sugar diets contribute to dental decay, so minimise your consumption of sugary foods and drinks.
- Visit your dentist regularly. Arrange regular checkups and cleanings with your dentist to catch issues early.
When will I feel better after tooth abscess treatment?
Depending on your overall dental health, recovery can range from a few days to a week or two. Patients with severe abscess ruptures may take longer.
When Should I See a Dentist?
Having a tooth abscess is a clear indication of a dental emergency. Do not underestimate its significance. Pursue prompt dental care to prevent complications and protect your oral health. Remember, delaying treatment can lead to severe consequences. Call us anytime at (08) 7078 8263. We’ll help you with adequate relief and proper treatment.
Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
Efda, Meghan Greening Rdh, Bsdh,. “Connective Tissue Disorders: Tailoring Dental Appointments for CTD Patients.” Today’s RDH, Nov. 2022, www.todaysrdh.com/connective-tissue-disorders-tailoring-dental-appointments-for-ctd-patients.
Furst, Ian M., et al. “A Rare Complication of Tooth abscess-Ludwig’s Angina and Mediastinitis.” JOURNAL-CANADIAN DENTAL ASSOCIATION, vol. 67, no. 6, 2001, pp. 324–27. www.cda-adc.ca/JADC/vol-67/issue-6/324.pdf.
Healthdirect Australia. “Tooth Abscess.” Healthdirect, www.healthdirect.gov.au/tooth-abscess.