Dental Abscesses & dental abscess treatment

A dental abscess is a localised infection which occurs when the dental pulp (nerve and blood vessel deep within the centre of the tooth) dies. This localised bacterial infection develops into a collection of pus, forming an abscess. There are two main types of abscess:

Peripheral abscess – this begins within the dental pulp and is common amongst children.

Periodontal abscess – this has its origin in the supporting bone and tooth structure and is more common in adult patients.

What are the symptoms that I may experience with a dental abscess?

  • Pain and tenderness, especially when biting down on the affected tooth.
  • Swelling and infection of the neighbouring gum tissue.
  • Loose tooth/teeth.
  • Swelling of your cheeks and face.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Increased body temperature associated with any infection.

An abscess is easily diagnosed by a worsening of localised pain by pressing or biting down on the affected tooth and can be confirmed by an X-ray.

What causes a dental abscess?

The main cause of any abscess is when untreated tooth decay occurs in the dental pulp, which then becomes infected and dies. The bacteria within this infection form a local collection of pus which then spreads beyond the edge of the tooth. It is this local collection of pus and the pressure that it creates that causes the pain associated with this condition.

Tooth decay occurs as a result of poor dental care and oral hygiene in combination with sugary foods, which form acid and decay the tooth structure.

How can I prevent decay from occurring?

You can prevent decay by following a good oral hygiene program which involves daily brushing, flossing and regular visits to your dental hygienist to have your teeth professionally cleaned. Regular check ups with your dentist will enable him/her to treat any signs of decay early on before they cause any serious problems. Reducing the frequency of consumption of acid-causing sugary foods and drinks will also help.

What is the best treatment for a dental abscess?

The Treatment for your dental abscess will depend on its severity. If you have localised pain in your tooth and suspect you may have a dentalabscess, you should see your dentist immediately. The first line of treatment is usually to drain the abscess and relieve the pressure and pain caused by the build up of pus.

You may also be prescribed antibiotics to clear the infection and painkillers if needed. Once the abscess has cleared, there are two main ways in which you can treat the condition to prevent the abscess from recurring.

  1. Extracting the affected dead tooth.
  2. Root canal treatment – drilling into the root canals and cleaning out the pulp chambers. The chambers are then blocked off with a root filling and restored with a composite filling or a crown.