With all the Infections, Diseases and other dental medical conditions we come to face, most clients are unaware of the precautions that can be done to treat and how to prevent the infections and diseases that lead to unhealthy oral conditions.

General Query

What’s to know about dental abscesses?

A dental abscess, or tooth abscess, is a buildup of pus that forms inside the teeth or gums.

The abscess typically comes from a bacterial infection, often one that has accumulated in the soft pulp of the tooth.

Bacteria exist in plaque, a by-product of food, saliva, and bacteria in the mouth, which sticks to the teeth and damages them and the gums.

If the plaque is not removed by regular and proper brushing and flossing, the bacteria may spread inside the soft tissue of the tooth or gums. This can eventually result in an abscess.

What is dental abscess?

Here are some key points about dental abscesses. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • There are three types of dental abscess: Gingival, periodontal and periapical.
  • Symptoms of dental abscesses include pain, a bad taste in the mouth and fever.
  • Dental abscesses are caused by a bacterial infection.
  • Treatment for an abscess may involve root canal surgery.
  • To minimize pain, it is best to avoid cold drinks and food and use a softer toothbrush.
Signs and symptoms of a dental abscess include:
  • pain in the affected area when biting or when touching the affected area
  • sensitivity to cold or hot food and liquids
  • a foul taste in the mouth
  • fever
  • a generally unwell feeling
  • difficulties opening the mouth
  • swallowing difficulties
  • insomnia

The main symptom of a dental abscess is pain. This may be a throbbing pain and is often intense. The pain usually starts suddenly and becomes more intense over the following hours or days. In some cases, the pain may radiate to the ear, jawbone, and neck.

Types of dental abscess

There are three types of dental abscess:

  • Gingival abscess: The abscess is only in the gum tissue and does not affect the tooth or the periodontal ligament.
  • Periodontal abscess: This abscess starts in the supporting bone tissue structures of the teeth.
  • Periapical abscess: this abscess commences in the soft pulp of the tooth.

The type of abscess will dictate the severity and location of symptoms.

What are the complications for untreated abscess conditions?

In the vast majority of cases, complications only occur if the abscess is left untreated. However, complications can occur, even after seemingly effective treatment, but this is very rare. Possible complications include:

  • Dental cysts: A fluid-filled cavity may develop at the bottom of the root of the tooth if the abscess is not treated. This is called a dental cyst. There is a significant risk that the cyst will become infected. If this happens, the patient will need antibiotics, and possibly surgery.
  • Osteomyelitis: The bacteria in the abscess gets into the bloodstream and infects the bone. The patient will experience an elevated body temperature, severe pain in the affected bone, and possibly nausea. Typically, the affected bone will be near the site of the abscess. However, as it may have spread into the bloodstream any bone in the body may be affected. Treatment involves either oral or intravenous antibiotics.
  • Cavernous sinus thrombosis: The spread of bacteria causes a blood clot to form at the cavernous sinus, a large vein at the base of the brain. Cavernous sinus thrombosis is treated with antibiotics, and sometimes surgery to drain the sinus. In some cases, the condition can be fatal. This is a very rare complication.
  • Ludwig’s angina: This is an infection of the floor of the mouth when the dental abscess bacteria spread. There is swelling and intense pain under the tongue and in the neck. In severe cases, the patient may find it hard to breathe. Ludwig’s angina is a potentially fatal condition. Patients are treated with antibiotics. People with severe Ludwig’s angina may require a procedure to open the airway if there are breathing problems.
  • Maxillary sinusitis: The bacteria spread into small spaces behind the cheekbones, called the maxillary sinuses. This is not a serious condition but can be painful. The patient may develop a fever and have tender cheeks. Sometimes the condition resolves on its own. Depending on the severity, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.