Tooth Abscess
En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition
A tooth abscess is a sac of infected material called pus in a tooth or the gums.

Abscess Between Tooth and Gum

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes
Bacteria cause a tooth abscess. It begins when bacteria invade and infect a tooth. This results in pus build-up. When the pus is unable to drain, an abscess results.

Conditions that allow bacteria to invade a tooth include:

  • Severe tooth decay
  • Break or crack in a tooth that lets bacteria invade the pulp
  • Failed root canal treatment
Risk Factors
Factors that may increase your risk of developing a tooth abscess include:

  • Build up of tartar or calculus beneath the gum line
  • Poor dental hygiene leading to cavities and periodontal diseases
Symptoms
Symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Throbbing/lingering pain in a tooth or gum area
  • Pain when biting
  • Pain from hot or cold
  • Sudden tooth pain
  • Redness, tenderness, or swelling of the gums
  • Fever
  • Bad breath or foul taste in mouth
  • Open, draining sore on the gums
If left untreated, complications of tooth abscess include:

  • Loss of tooth and surrounding tissues or bone
  • Spread of infection to surrounding tissue or bone
Diagnosis
Your dentist will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A detailed exam of your teeth and gums will be done.

Images may need to be taken of the tooth and surrounding bone. This can be done with x-ray .

A sample of the abscess fluid may be taken and tested.

Treatment
Removal of Abscess Via Root Canal
  • If an abscess results from tooth decay or a break or crack in the tooth:
    • The tooth and surrounding tissue is numbed and a hole is drilled through the top of the tooth.
    • Pus and dead tissue are removed from the center of the tooth.
    • The interior of the tooth and the root canals are cleaned and filled with a permanent filling.
    • A crown is placed on the tooth to protect it.
  • If an abscess results from infection between the tooth and gum:
    • The abscess is drained and thoroughly cleaned.
    • The root surface of tooth is cleaned and smoothed.
    • In some cases, surgery to reshape the gum is done to prevent a repeat infection.
Tooth Extraction (Removal)
  • Removal of the tooth may be required if:
    • Tooth decay and/or tooth infection is too extensive for filling or root canal treatment.
    • The break or crack in the tooth is too severe to be repaired.
    • The infection or loss of tissue/bone between the tooth and gum is severe.
  • If the tooth is extracted, it will be replaced with a:
    • Partial bridge
    • Denture
    • Tooth implant
Medication
  • Antibiotics to fight residual infection of the tooth or gums
  • Nonprescription pain relief drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
Prevention
To help reduce your chance of getting a tooth abscess, follow proper dental hygiene:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after meals or at least twice per day.
  • Floss between your teeth and gums every day.
  • Get regular dental check-ups and teeth and gum clearnings every six months.



RESOURCES:
Academy of General Dentistry

American Dental Association

CANADIAN RESOURCES:
Canadian Dental Association

The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

References:
Abscess (toothache). American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/az-topics/a/abscess.aspx . Accessed March 18, 2013.

Beers MH, Fletcher AJ. The Merck Manual of Medical Information—Home Edition . New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.

Dental abscess. NHSinform website. Available at: http://www.nhsinform.com/health-library/articles/d/dental-abscess/introduction . Accessed March 18, 2013.

Root canals. American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/r/root-canals.aspx . Accessed March 18, 2013.

Last Reviewed September 2013



Health Information Library content is provided by EBSCO Publishing, fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.

 

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

 

To send comments or feedback to EBSCO's Editorial Team regarding the content please e-mail healthlibrarysupport@ebscohost.com.