What Is A Tooth Abscess?
Tooth abscesses (aka dental abscesses) are bacterial infections formed near the root of a tooth or the gums. These infections are known to form pockets of pus that must be drained and washed thoroughly by a dentist to eliminate the infection. Though they most often develop as a result of untreated cavities, they can also develop due to cracks or chips in the teeth that have occurred through injury.
Abscesses can occur in different regions. When they occur in the tip of a tooth’s root, this is known as a periapical abscess. They may also occur in the gums around the side of a root, which is known as a periodontal abscess.
What Causes A Tooth Abscess?
There are two main causes of a tooth abscess. The first is some cavity leading into the roots or gums. The second is a bacterial infection. If there is a way into the inside of a left unfilled tooth, there is a high chance of bacteria finding its way inside eventually. When a bacterial infection has invaded the innermost sections of a tooth, an abscess develops. Following this development, one can feel as though they have a persistent toothache. Over time, the infection can also spread to other teeth and other areas of the body as well. If an abscess does develop, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent further infection and complications.
What Are The Stages of A Tooth Abscess?
There are three stages to a tooth abscess. These are tooth decay, pulp infection, and the spread of infection.
- Tooth Decay – When plaque builds up inside a tooth, it eats away at the enamel and forms a cavity. When bacteria occupy this cavity, they secrete acids that continue to erode the tooth itself. Once bacteria reaches the sensitive dentin, it can spread through the tooth’s interior, forming an abscess.
- Pulp Infection – With bacteria in the tooth pulp, nerve irritation and inflammation become apparent. This triggers the immune system to react, causing even more inflammation and causing the development of pus. This pus builds up around the root, placing pressure on surrounding tissues and structures and causing pain and swelling.
- Infection Spread – In the late stage of an abscess, the infection spreads to neighbouring structures from the infected root. This could lead to the erosion of bone tissue, particularly in the jaw, and can even spread throughout the body if untreated.
Symptoms of A Tooth Abscess
Examples of tooth abscess symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- Sensitivity to pressure or painful chewing
- Persistent toothaches extending into the jaw, neck, or ears
- Swelling in the face or cheek
- Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or on the neck
- Trouble breathing or swallowing
- A sudden rush of salty liquid in the mouth coinciding with pain relief indicating that an abscess was ruptured.
Treatment Options for A Tooth Abscess
Treating a tooth abscess requires the elimination of the infection. There are several procedures that a dentist near me may use depending on how far the infection has spread. A typical tooth abscess treatment may include:
- Draining The Abscess – This involves making a small incision into the abscess allowing the pus to drain out. This will be followed by a salt-water rinse to wash the area out and may include a small rubber drain to keep the area open while the swelling decreases.
- Root Canal – The dentist will drill into the infected tooth to remove the damaged tissue and drain the abscess. Then, the pulp chamber and root canals are filled and sealed. The tooth may be topped with a dental crown to increase its durability. Root canals give dentists the chance to save a tooth in circumstances where the pulp has been heavily eroded.
- Pulling The Tooth – If the infection has worn down the tooth too much for it to be saved, the dentist will have to pull the tooth to drain the abscess.
In some cases, a dental abscess may lead to tooth extraction and missing teeth which, sometimes can be replaced with a dental implant.
If the infection has spread to other teeth, the jaw, or any other areas, antibiotics may be prescribed in order to limit further spreading. They may also be prescribed in cases where the immune system has been weakened. The most common antibiotics that are used include Amoxicillin, Azithromycin, Cefoxitin, Metronidazole, and Penicillin. They are not always required, but they may be necessary in order to prevent the further spread of the infection and avoid complications. Always consult with your doctor before using medications. Some people may be allergic to medications.
Dental Abscess Complications
When a dental abscess is left untreated, the infection has a chance to spread and cause a variety of potential complications. Oral cysts may form in the jawbone, which are bubble-like formations that will need to be removed. If the infection passes into the bloodstream, it can spread to bones causing Osteomyelitis or cause a blood clot near the brain, which could be fatal called Cavernous sinus thrombosis. Infections may also spread to the roof of the mouth (Ludwig’s angina) or in small air-filled spaces behind the cheekbones (Maxillary sinusitis.)
Essentially, the infection from an untreated dental abscess has the potential to spread to many other areas of the body. This can lead to several complications, many of which are highly dangerous and may cause lasting effects. When an abscess forms, it’s important to seek help as quickly as possible to avoid the spread of the infection.
What If An Abscess Bursts On Its Own?
In some cases, an abscess may suddenly burst on its own, releasing salty-tasting pus into your mouth. When this happens, it’s important to rinse your mouth thoroughly to avoid spreading the infection. This is best achieved with a solution of salt water or water and hydrogen peroxide. Be sure to rinse for about two minutes before spitting the solution out. You may also wish to use an ice bag against the affected area’s skin for pain relief.
Discussing A Tooth Abscess With Children
When a child develops an abscess, they need to know that they will need to see a dentist for treatment. According to Kids dentist, Dr Soha Sharif in Brisbane Children requires predictability in their life to respond to new situations, so parents should take to their children about the issue early rather than waiting until the last minute. Be sure to explain the problem without going into too much detail, allow your child to express their thoughts or feelings, and be sure to answer any questions. You can assure them that a kids dentist can also answer questions for them and that, ultimately, the treatment will help their tooth feel better. See the list of Brisbane dentists for children.
Can I Drain An Abscess Without A Dentist?
While home remedies for tooth abscesses do exist, it is much safer and more effective to see a dentist for treatment. Using dental X-rays and other tools, emergency dentists near Sunnybank are better able to determine how far an infection has spread, meaning they’re better able to eliminate the infection and cause complications. For those with apprehensions about the dentist, it’s important to remember that a tooth abscess can be potentially dangerous when not treated properly and it’s always better to have professional help for the sake of one’s wellbeing.
Before Seeing A Dentist
If you or someone you care for might have a tooth abscess, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. In the meantime, it can help to make a list of all symptoms one is experiencing, even those that may seem unrelated to an abscess. In addition, you can make sure to account for all medications or any other mitigating factors. You may also want to prepare any questions you have for the dentist to ensure you’re fully ready.
Examples of questions that you may want to ask include:
- What is the most likely cause of symptoms?
- What kind of treatments is going to be needed?
- Are there any restrictions I should follow?
- Are there any written materials or websites you can recommend to explain more?
Preventing A Tooth Abscess
By far, the best approach is to prevent a tooth abscess from occurring at all. As with most dental conditions, the best method of prevention is to maintain good oral hygiene habits. These include brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, avoiding sugary foods, replacing toothbrushes every three to four months, and scheduling regular dental checkups for cleanings. You may also want to use an antiseptic or fluoride mouth rinse for extra protection against tooth decay. Keeping one’s mouth clean from plaque and bacteria can prevent most dental problems and contribute to a healthier life overall.
Treatment of Tooth Abscess in Brisbane
If you suspect that you or your child may have a tooth abscess, don’t hesitate to contact Pure Dentistry in Brisbane and book an appointment. We offer comprehensive dental services for children and adults (including dental treatment with happy gas and dental treatment under sleep. We aim to use the latest technology, use the highest-quality materials, offer honest advice, and genuinely care for our parents. Book an appointment online or call us at 07 3343 4869 to chat today.