A dental abscess is an infection caused by bacteria that has built up in the teeth and gums, resulting in a pocket of pus. A dental abscess can cause severe pain and swelling in the mouth and can spread to other areas of the body if left untreated.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of a dental abscess, you need to seek immediate treatment. Our emergency dentists at Beach Dental Care Anaheim can provide you with the quality, compassionate care you need to get back to feeling better quickly and safely.
What is a Dental Abscess?
A dental or tooth abscess is an infection that develops around the root of a tooth or in the gums. It forms when bacteria, usually from plaque, get trapped in the small spaces between the teeth and gums and the bacteria begin to multiply. The bacteria can cause an infection that can spread to other parts of the mouth, neck, and even the bloodstream.
A periapical abscess is the most common type of tooth abscess and occurs at the tip of the root of a tooth. A periodontal abscess, on the other hand, occurs in the gums around a tooth. Both types of tooth abscesses can cause extreme pain and require immediate medical attention.
Who is Likely to Experience Dental Abscess?
Dental abscesses are most common in adults, although they can occur in children as well. There are several factors that make some people more prone to developing a dental abscess than others, including:
- People who do not practice good oral hygiene are more likely to get a dental abscess. This includes not brushing and flossing regularly, not seeing the dentist regularly, and not using regular mouthwash.
- People who have poor nutrition are more likely to get a dental abscess. Poor nutrition can lead to weak and decaying teeth, which are more prone to infection.
- People with weakened immune systems, such as those who have HIV/AIDS or cancer, are more likely to get a dental abscess.
- People who smoke. Smoking can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of getting a dental abscess.
- People with dry mouths are more likely to get a dental abscess as they produce less saliva, which helps to wash away bacteria.
- People who have pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, are more likely to get a dental abscess.
- People who have poorly fitted dental appliances, such as dentures or bridges, are more likely to get a dental abscess.
- People who have tooth decay are more likely to get a dental abscess.
Signs and Symptoms of Dental Abscess
The signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess can range from mild to severe, and they depend on the severity of the infection. The most common sign of a tooth abscess is a persistent and throbbing toothache. This pain is usually felt in the affected tooth and can extend to the surrounding area. The pain may be worse when the tooth is touched or when eating or drinking hot or cold foods.
Other signs and symptoms include:
- Swelling in the face, jaw, or neck.
- Bad breath.
- Taste of pus in your mouth.
- Redness or tenderness in the area surrounding the abscess.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
- Difficulty opening the mouth.
- Trouble swallowing.
- Trismus (limited opening of the mouth).
In some cases, the abscess can cause the tooth to become loose. It is important to see a dentist immediately if you experience any of these signs and symptoms.
Causes of Dental Abscess
The primary cause of a tooth abscess is a bacterial infection. Bacteria can enter the tooth’s root or the space between the tooth and gum due to several factors, such as tooth decay, gum disease, or a cracked or broken tooth. When bacteria enter the root of the tooth, they can cause an infection that leads to an abscess.
Tooth decay is one of the most common causes of tooth abscess. Tooth decay occurs when bacteria in the mouth combine with sugars and starches from food, producing acid that can erode the protective enamel of the teeth. If the decay is not treated, it can cause a hole in the tooth, known as a cavity. Bacteria can then enter the cavity and cause an infection that can ultimately lead to an abscess.
Gum disease is another common cause of tooth abscess. Gum disease is an infection of the gums that is caused by bacteria in plaque. If the infection is left untreated, it can irritate the gums and cause them to pull away from the teeth. This can create spaces between the teeth and gums, providing an entry point for bacteria that can lead to an abscess.
A cracked or broken tooth can also be responsible for a tooth abscess. A crack or break in the tooth can provide an entry point for bacteria, allowing them to enter the root of the tooth and cause an infection. Once bacteria enter the root of the tooth or the space between the tooth and gum, they will multiply and cause an infection. The infection can cause pain and swelling and, if left untreated, it can cause serious complications.
Risk Factors For Dental Abscess
The most common risk factor for a tooth abscess is poor oral hygiene. Not brushing and flossing regularly can lead to the buildup of plaque and bacteria on the teeth, which increases the chances of an infection. Additionally, not visiting the dentist regularly can leave teeth and gums vulnerable to bacteria.
Eating sugary and acidic foods can also increase the risk of tooth abscesses. These foods can contribute to dental decay, which can create a hole in the tooth that allows bacteria to enter and cause an infection.
Smoking and drinking alcohol can also increase the risk of tooth abscesses. These substances can reduce the flow of saliva in the mouth, which can cause bacteria to build up on the teeth and gums.
Having a weakened immune system can also increase the risk of tooth abscess. An impaired immune system can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection.
Injury to the mouth or jaw can also increase the risk of a tooth abscess. When the area is injured, bacteria can enter the area, leading to an infection.
Finally, certain medical conditions can increase the risk of tooth abscess. Conditions like diabetes, HIV, and cancer can all weaken the immune system and make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection.
Diagnosing Tooth Abscess
The diagnosis of a tooth abscess begins with your dentist taking a thorough medical history and performing an examination of the teeth and gums. The dentist will look for any signs of infection or inflammation, such as redness, swelling, pain, or discharge. The dentist may also take X-rays of the affected tooth to look for evidence of an abscess.
During the examination, the dentist may also take samples of oral fluids such as saliva and pus. The samples will be examined under a microscope to look for signs of bacteria or other pathogens. This can help the dentist determine the cause of the infection and the best treatment plan.
In some cases, further tests may be recommended. This may include a blood test to check for signs of infection, or a dental CT scan to get a detailed image of the affected area. Once the diagnosis of a tooth abscess is made, the dentist will discuss the best treatment plan.
What is the Treatment for Dental Abscess?
The most common treatment for a dental abscess is antibiotics. Depending on the severity of the abscess, oral antibiotics may be prescribed for a few days or a few weeks. These antibiotics are designed to kill the specific bacteria that is causing the infection. In some cases, a combination of antibiotics may be used to ensure that the infection is completely eradicated.
In addition to antibiotics, a root canal may be necessary to treat a dental abscess. During a root canal, the infected portion of the tooth is removed and the inner chamber of the tooth is cleaned out. Once the infection is cleared, a crown or filling is then placed to seal off the tooth and protect it from future infection. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat a dental abscess. During surgery, the infected area is opened up and the abscess is drained. In some cases, the jawbone may need to be removed to ensure that the infection is completely cleared.
In addition to the above treatments, it is also important to practice good oral hygiene to prevent a dental abscess from returning. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist for regular checkups. It is also important to avoid sugary and acidic foods and drinks, as they can increase the risk of tooth decay and infection.
Lifestyle and Home Remedies For Dental Abscess
In the meantime, there are lifestyle and home remedies you can use to help manage the symptoms of a dental abscess.
A saltwater rinse can help reduce pain and swelling associated with a dental abscess. To make the rinse, dissolve 1 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup of warm water. Swish the solution around in your mouth for about 30 seconds, then spit it out. Repeat this process several times a day.
Applying a cold compress to the outside of the face can help reduce swelling and pain associated with a dental abscess. To make a cold compress, wrap a few ice cubes in a towel and apply it to the affected area for 10 minutes at a time.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help manage the pain associated with a dental abscess. Follow the instructions on the packaging and do not exceed the recommended dosage.
Eating soft foods can help reduce pain and irritation associated with a dental abscess. Stick to foods that are easy to chew and swallow, such as mashed potatoes, yogurt, applesauce, and scrambled eggs. Avoid foods that are hard, crunchy, or sharp, such as popcorn, chips, or nuts.
Several alternative therapies may help reduce pain and swelling associated with a dental abscess. These include acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal remedies. Talk to your dentist or doctor before trying any of these therapies.
What Happens if an Abscess is Left Untreated?
An untreated abscess can cause several serious complications, including:
- Sepsis: Sepsis is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when an infection spreads throughout the bloodstream. This can lead to organ failure and, in extreme cases, death.
- Spread of infection: If an abscess is left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of the body, such as the lungs or brain.
- Tissue damage: An abscess can cause permanent tissue damage if left untreated. This may lead to scarring, which can be both cosmetically and functionally damaging.
- Disfigurement: If an abscess is large or is not treated properly, it may cause disfigurement of the affected area. This can range from minor scarring to severe disfigurement.
- Gangrene: Gangrene is a condition in which tissue dies due to a lack of blood flow. This can occur if an abscess is left untreated and affects the skin and underlying tissue.
- Life-threatening complications: In rare cases, an untreated abscess can lead to life-threatening complications, such as septic shock.
Can a Dental Abscess be Prevented?
Yes. There are preventive measures that you can take to avoid the development of an abscess. They include:
- Brushing and Flossing: Brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day is one of the most effective ways to prevent a dental abscess. Brushing and flossing help to remove plaque and bacteria that can cause an infection in the gums. Using a toothbrush with soft bristles and fluoride toothpaste can help to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
- Visiting your Dentist Regularly: Regular checkups with your dentist are essential for preventing a dental abscess. During checkups, your dentist will be able to detect any signs of infection or decay that may lead to an abscess. Your dentist can also recommend treatments to address any issues before they become more serious.
- Avoiding Tobacco: Smoking and chewing tobacco can increase your risk of developing an abscess. Tobacco can cause irritation and inflammation of the gums, which can lead to infection.
- Eating a Balanced Diet: Eating a balanced diet can help to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Eating foods that are high in calcium and other essential nutrients can help to keep your teeth strong and your gums healthy.
- Taking Care of Your Teeth: Taking care of your teeth is essential for preventing an abscess. Avoiding sugary or acidic foods can help to keep your teeth strong and healthy. It’s also important to wear a mouthguard when playing sports or grinding your teeth at night.
When is Dental Abscess Considered an Emergency?
A dental abscess is considered an emergency when it is accompanied by severe symptoms or when it is in a location that is difficult to treat. Severe symptoms of a dental abscess include extreme pain, swelling in the mouth, fever, and difficulty swallowing or breathing. If the abscess is in a hard-to-reach area, such as between the teeth, it can be difficult for a dentist to properly clean and treat the infection. In these cases, immediate medical attention is necessary.
In addition to severe symptoms and hard-to-reach abscesses, a dental abscess is also considered an emergency if it has spread to other parts of the body. If the infection has spread to the jawbone, for example, it can cause severe pain and difficulty eating. If it has spread to the neck or chest, there is a risk of airway obstruction, which can be life-threatening.
Additionally, a dental abscess may require emergency treatment if it is not responding to antibiotics, or if it is accompanied by other serious symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, or loss of consciousness.
How to Prepare for Your Dentists Appointment for Dental Abscess
If you are suffering from a dental abscess and need to visit the dentist, it is important to take the necessary steps to prepare for the appointment. Here are some tips on how to prepare for a dentist appointment for a dental abscess.
- Gather Your Medical Information: It is important to have all of your medical information ready for the appointment. This includes any medical history, medications you are taking and any allergies you may have. This information will help your dentist to diagnose and treat your dental abscess.
- Prepare a List of Questions: It is important to prepare a list of questions that you may have for your dentist. This will help you to understand your condition better and to make sure that all of your questions are answered.
- Make Sure to Take Any Prescribed Medicine: If your dentist has prescribed any medication, make sure to take it as instructed before the appointment. This will help your dentist to properly diagnose and treat your condition.
Find an Emergency Dentist Near Me
With prompt diagnosis and treatment, a dental abscess can be treated successfully and without complications. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with a dental abscess, it is important to seek treatment from an emergency dentist immediately.
At Beach Dental Care Anaheim, we offer prompt and effective emergency dental care for dental abscesses. Our dentists can diagnose the underlying cause of your dental abscess and provide the appropriate treatment to help you recover from this condition. Call us today at 714-995-4000.