Tooth Abscess: Types, Causes, Complications

Tooth abscesses can cause one or multiple teeth hurt, make it difficult to chew foods on one side of the mouth, and even lead to general illness and fever. This kind of mouth infection can be serious, and individuals should have a dentist look at the issue as soon as possible to prevent complications.

What is a Tooth Abscess?

Tooth abscesses are caused by bacterial infections either of the tooth or the gum. The abscess occurs when pus fills a pocket inside your gum. They are painful and, if not treated, can lead to severe and even life-threatening complications. There are three types of dental abscesses: periodontal, gingival, and periapical.

What is a Periodontal Abscess?

A periodontal abscess occurs in the gum and bone around the roots of the tooth. It can be very painful. The dentist or endodontist will drain the pus from the infection, then plane and scale the tooth’s roots to prevent further infection. This treatment typically happens below the gum line. In most cases, the dentist will try to save the tooth, but it may need to be pulled.

What is a Gingival Abscess?

A gingival abscess is an abscess that occurs only in the gum tissue and does not affect the tooth. In this case, the dentist will need to clean out the abscess and perhaps treat it with antibiotics. Because it does not affect the teeth themselves, it is unlikely to result in any pulled teeth.

What is a Periapical Abscess?

A periapical abscess occurs when the infection is located at the tip of the tooth’s root. It usually occurs within the soft pulp of the tooth and spreads outward. This is often the most painful type and may require a root canal to save the tooth. In some cases, the damage is so extreme that the tooth must be pulled.

What are the Symptoms of a Dental Abscess?

People usually feel pain in the area where a dental abscess occurs. They may be sensitive to hot and cold foods, especially in that region. Sometimes, a foul taste develops, and the infection can also cause bad breath and fever. Some people have trouble eating or chewing, especially on the infected side. Sometimes the symptoms will keep the individual awake.

Causes of Dental Abscess: Cavities

One of the most common causes of a dental abscess is an untreated cavity. Cavities allow pockets of bacteria to fester and infect the surrounding tissue and bone. Good dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist can prevent cavities or at least keep them from becoming abscesses.

Causes of Dental Abscess: Gum Disease

Another potential cause of a dental abscess is gum disease or gingivitis. Bacteria in the mouth causes plaque to build up on the teeth and along the gum line. This can leave the gums red and inflamed. They may bleed easily when flossing or brushing. Regular dental hygiene and visits to the dentist will help prevent these issues, as well.

Causes of Dental Abscess: Cracked Teeth

Cracked teeth can cause dental abscesses. Accidents, hard foods, and teeth grinding can all increase the risk of a dental abscess. Bacteria can get into the cracks of the teeth, causing cavities and eventually abscesses. People with cracked teeth should see a dentist in short order, to repair it before it becomes abscessed.

Why Are Abscesses So Serious?

Abscesses should be treated right away by a dentist because they can lead to life-threatening complications. The bacteria can spread via the bloodstream into the bones, causing osteomyelitis, which may require oral or intravenous antibiotics. Typically, the bone affected is the one closest to the infection, but the infection can travel. The abscess can also cause cavernous sinus thrombosis, a blood clot in the sinuses, near the brain. Ludwig’s angina is another possible complication. In this case, the abscess develops on the floor of the mouth and may swell until it blocks breathing.

Pain in the Mouth

Any time the teeth or a single tooth is sore for an extended period, an individual should speak to a dentist. Pain is the most common symptom of abscesses and may be the only one. The dentist can determine whether or not an abscess is to blame for the pain. Likewise, a general practitioner will be able to offer antibiotics to prevent a worsening condition while the patient waits to consult a dentist.