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Dental abscess

A dental abscess is formed of pus affecting teeth or gums. Dental abscess can cause throbbing pain and is caused by bacterial infection.

A dental abscess can begin as a tooth infection or cavity. These infections are common in people with poor dental health and result from lack of regular dental care.

Dental abscess causes

The cause of these infections is direct growth of the bacteria from an existing cavity into the soft tissues and bones of the face and neck.

An infected tooth that has not received appropriate dental care can cause a dental abscess to form. Poor oral hygiene, (such as not brushing and flossing properly or often enough) can cause  cavities to form in your teeth. The infection then may spread to the gums and adjacent areas and become a painful dental abscess.

Dental abscess symptoms

  • Symptoms of a dental abscess typically include pain, swelling, and redness of the mouth and face. With an advanced infection, you can suffer nausea, vomiting, fever, chills and diarrhoea.
  • The signs of dental abscess typically include, but are not limited to, cavities, gum inflammation, oral swelling, tenderness with touch, pus drainage, and sometimes difficulty fully opening your mouth or swallowing.

Dental abscess complications

  • Bacteria from a cavity can extend into the gums, the cheek, the throat, beneath the tongue, or even into the jaw or facial bones. A dental abscess can become very painful when tissues become inflamed.
  • Pus collects at the site of the infection and will become progressively more painful until it either ruptures and drains on its own or is drained surgically.
  • Sometimes the infection can progress to the point where swelling threatens to block the airway, causing difficulty breathing. Dental abscesses can also make you generally ill, with nausea, vomiting, fevers, chills and sweats.

 

Dental abscess treatment

The pain from a dental abscess may be helped with over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol.

If an abscess ruptures by itself, warm water rinses will help cleanse the mouth and encourage drainage.

A dental abscess will not get better on its own. Only a dentist can treat a dental abscess by draining the pus and treating or removing any infected teeth.

If your usual dentist is closed or no appointments are available, and the pain cannot be tolerated, you may need emergency out-of-hours dental treatment.

The dentist may have an out of hours contact number, otherwise use local NHS helplines to access out-of-hours dental service, or go to A&E.

Dental abscess prevention

Prevention plays a major role in maintaining good dental health. Daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental check-ups can help prevent tooth decay and dental abscess.

  • Remember to brush and floss every day as advised.
  • If tooth decay is discovered early and treated promptly, cavities that could develop into abscesses can usually be corrected.
  • Avoidance of cigarette smoking and excess alcohol consumption may help.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 23, 2013

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