How to Diagnose and Treat an Abscessed Tooth

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An abscessed tooth is a particularly painful condition. Learn more about what causes an abscessed tooth, what are the symptoms, how it is diagnosed and treated, and whether it can be prevented.

An abscessed tooth is a very painful infection at the root of a tooth. The area between the gum and a tooth can also be infected. It is usually caused by severe tooth decay. Other causes of tooth abscess include trauma to the tooth (when a tooth is broken of chipped, for example) and gum disease also known as gingivitis. These conditions can cause holes in the tooth enamel, which enables bacteria to infect the center of the tooth (called the pulp). The infection can also escalate and reach the bones supporting the tooth.

What Are the Signs of an Abscessed Tooth?

A common symptom of an abscessed tooth is a severe and continuous toothache that results in throbbing or sharp pain. There are certain other symptoms as well:

  • Pain when chewing
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Swollen neck glands
  • Fever
  • Foul breath
  • Swelling of the gums
  • General malaise and discomfort
  • Open sore on the side of the gum
  • Swollen area on the upper or lower jaw

The toothache may stop if the pulp in the root of the tooth dies as a consequence of the infection. It is important to note that this does not mean that the infection is gone, it remains active and continues to escalate and destroy tissue. Therefore, see your dentist if you have these symptoms even if the pain has died down.


How to Diagnose an Abscessed Tooth?

Your dentist will carefully examine your teeth with a dental instrument. You will feel pain when the abscessed tooth is tapped by the dental instrument. Your dentist will ask you whether the pain increases when you bite down or close your mouth tightly. Your dentist may also suspect an abscessed tooth if your gums are swollen and red.

How to Treat an Abscessed Tooth?

The goals of treating an abscessed tooth are eliminating the infection, preserving the tooth, and preventing complications. The abscess may need to be drained in order to eliminate the infection. This can be done through the tooth by a procedure known as root canal therapy. Your dentist may also recommend root surgery in order to remove any diseased root tissue after the infection has subsided. A dental crown may then be placed over the tooth.

The tooth may also be removed. The final way to drain the abscess would be by making an incision into the swollen gum tissue. Antibiotics are prescribed in order to help fight the infection. Warm salt water rinses and pain medication such as ibuprofen can be used to alleviate pain and discomfort usually associated with an abscessed tooth.

How to Prevent an Abscessed Tooth?

You can reduce the risk of developing a tooth abscess by practicing good oral hygiene. You should also immediately seek dental attention if your teeth experience any kind of trauma.

An abscessed tooth can be a very painful and serious condition. Follow good oral hygiene to reduce the chances of ever experiencing it. Make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you recognize any symptoms that might indicate tooth abscess.

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