abscessed tooth

What is an abscessed tooth?

An abscessed tooth is an infection caused by tooth decay, periodontal disease, or a crack in the teeth. These problems can let bacteria enter the vulnerable areas of a tooth, which can lead to tooth pulp death. When pus builds up at the root tip in the jaw bone, it forms a pocket called an abscess. In gums, an abscess can form around the soft tissues that surround your tooth when periodontal disease is severe. If the abscess is not treated, it can lead to serious problems. 

Signs and Symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck, or ear
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
  • Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
  • Fever
  • Redness, bleeding, and/or swelling in the gums around a tooth (*there is also sometimes pus*)
  • Swelling in your face or cheek
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
  • A sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in your mouth and pain relief, if the abscess ruptures
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing


An abscess occurs when bacteria invade the dental pulp (the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue). Bacteria can enter through either a dental cavity or a chip or crack in the tooth and spread all the way down to the root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root.

Not taking proper care of your teeth and gums can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth abscess, and other dental and mouth complications. Also, frequently eating and drinking foods rich in sugar, such as sweets and sodas, can contribute to dental cavities and turn into an abscess.

Treatment Options: 

An abscessed tooth can be treated with various treatments, depending on the severity of the infection. 

  • Antibiotics, to destroy the bacteria causing the infection
  • Drainage of the infection
  • Cleaning the space between the tooth and the gum if the cause is from gum disease
  • Root canal treatment if the abscess is caused by decay or a cracked tooth

Following good oral hygiene practices and routine dental exams will significantly reduce your risk of developing a tooth abscess. Sometimes it is difficult for you to know if the source of the abscess is a tooth or gum. The only way to know is for your dentist to diagnose the source of the infection during an in-office dental exam. Contact our office if you have any questions or concerns. 

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