An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus that forms in various parts of the tooth due to a bacterial infection. It can cause moderate to intense pain that can radiate to the ear or neck.
If not treated, an abscessed tooth can progress into a serious, dangerous condition.
What are the signs?
The characteristic sign of an abscessed tooth is excruciating pain close to a tooth or in the gums. The discomfort typically arises abruptly and worsens over time.
- Discomfort radiating to the jaw, ear or neck
- Pain that worsens when lying down
- Reddened, swollen gums
- Pain while chewing or biting
- Facial swelling and redness
- Bad breath
- Tooth sensitivity
- Discolored or loose tooth
- Tender or enlarged lymph nodes in the neck or under the jaw
- Foul taste in the mouth
In case an abscess breaks open, it causes immediate relief to the pain. There is also a sudden undesirable taste in the mouth as the pus is drained out.
Management of an abscessed tooth
The treatment for an abscessed tooth is aimed on clearing up the infection as well as reducing the pain. Depending on the signs present, the dentist will take an X-ray to determine if the infection has spread to other areas.
Depending on the seriousness and type of abscess, the usual treatment options include the following:
- Drainage – a small incision is created on the abscess to allow the pus to drain. This is followed by cleaning the site with saline solution.
- Root canal procedure – this involves drilling into the tooth to allow the abscess to drain and get rid of any diseased pulp. The pulp chamber is sealed. In some cases, the tooth is capped with a crown to strengthen it.
- Tooth extraction – if the tooth is significantly damaged, the dentist will decide to remove it before drainage.
- Antibiotics – if the infection has already spread or the individual has a weakened immune system, oral antibiotics are prescribed.
- Removal of foreign objects – if the abscess is due to a foreign object in the gums, it is removed followed by cleaning the site with saline solution.
In case a dentist could not be consulted right away, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug can be taken to ease the pain.