Tooth Abscess: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

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Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

April 16, 2019

You may have heard about an abscess tooth without really knowing exactly what it was, other than the fact that it didn’t sound good. An abscess that forms around the tooth is actually a small pocket of pus which generally appears at the root of a tooth which has become infected. People of any age can develop an abscessed tooth, from a child all the way up to senior citizens.

Anyone troubled by an abscessed tooth should be aware that treatment will be required, because it simply will not get any better all by itself. Treatment will have to be administered by an endodontist or a dentist, and this must be done fairly quickly in order to have any hope of saving the abscessed tooth. If treatment is not addressed promptly, the infection around the tooth can spread from the jaw into the head, neck, and even beyond, into other body parts.

Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth

There are a wide variety of symptoms which may appear in a person who has an abscessed tooth, starting with the most obvious ones of pain, swelling, and redness around the gums in the area of the abscess. A person might also become aware of a bad taste in their mouth or additional pain during chewing.

It often happens that jaw pain accompanies an abscessed tooth, along with a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and possible difficulty with swallowing or breathing. There are times when a bump will appear on the gums in an area of the abscess that looks like a pimple, and if this pimple oozes out fluid when you squeeze it, it’s almost certainly an abscess, because that liquid is pus.

Causes of an Abscessed Tooth

Your teeth have a hard coating on the outside which is known as enamel, but if this enamel is penetrated, there is a soft interior called pulp, which is comprised of blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves. If this pulp area becomes infected, it can lead to an abscess. The most common causes of a pulp infection are a large, deep cavity or pronounced tooth decay. Gum disease can also trigger an infection with pulp, and if you have a tooth which has become cracked for some reason, that can also breach the enamel and allow the interior to become infected.

If this infection is not promptly treated, it may kill off the pulp inside that tooth entirely, and lead to the development of an abscess. The two main types of abscesses which form are a periapical abscess, which can form right at the root of your tooth, and a periodontal abscess, which forms closer to the bone of your tooth.

Treatment for a Tooth Abscess 

It’s possible for a person who has a tooth abscess to be unaware of any symptoms at all, and when this happens, it will always mean that the pocket of pus is draining somewhere else, so that it causes no recognizable symptoms. Even when this is the case, however, your dentist can spot an abscess by using X-rays during a routine exam. It’s also possible to identify an abscess by tapping on a tooth and noting the reaction it causes for the patient.

If your dentist is still not certain that a tooth abscess has developed, he may send you to a specialist called an endodontist, who has special training to deal with abscessed teeth. An endodontist will certainly be able to tell if you have an abscess and will have all the knowledge and tools necessary to treat it. In order to eliminate the abscess from your tooth, one of the principal treatment approaches is to administer antibiotics to the patient, especially if the abscess has gone beyond the jaw and further into the body.

If your dentist or the endodontist determine that the tooth simply cannot be saved, it will have to be completely extracted so that it does not remain in the mouth to cause problems. At this point, you will want to see a maxillofacial surgeon, who can see if a dental implant can be considered. Another common way of treating a tooth abscess is to perform a root canal, which may be the very best way of saving your tooth. This process involves drilling into your tooth and cleaning out the pulp inside it, as well as the root canals which go down into the gum. These spaces are filled and sealed, so that no further damage can occur, and then they’re topped with either a filling or a crown, which looks just like your other teeth, and which offers the same degree of functionality.

Treating a Tooth Abscess in West Palm Beach, FL 

If you have a tooth abscess and your tooth needs to be removed, you should see Dr. Andrew Slavin of the Good Samaritan Dental Implant Institute. Dr. Slavin has years of experience in treating abscessed teeth with dental implants and will always find the most effective and pain-free approach to help a patient. To be sure you’re receiving the most modern and the most professional treatment available in West Palm Beach, contact the Good Samaritan Dental Implant Institute.


Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

Andrew Slavin, DMD, FACS

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