A dental abscess is one of the leading reasons people seek emergency dental care. An abscess can be very painful and can easily become a threat to not only your oral health, but your general health as well.
It is important to know the warning signs and how you can treat your abscess at home until you can get to your dentist. An abscess is serious and should be treated by a skilled emergency dentist at the soonest opportunity.
What is an Abscess?
An abscess is a bacterial infection that causes pain and swelling and typically produces pus. It’s important to keep in mind that an abscess needs immediate attention.
Abscesses are most commonly caused by untreated decay or damage that leads to bacterial growth. Long-term, untreated periodontal (gum) disease can also lead to the development of an abscess. In very serious cases, the infection from the tooth abscess may spread out and affect the surrounding teeth, which can lead to loose teeth or tooth loss. The patient may also face the risk of the infection spreading.
What are the Symptoms of an Abscess?
Signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:
- Severe, persistent, throbbing or stabbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear
- Redness and swelling of the gums
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
- Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
- Swelling in your face or cheek
- Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
- Sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in your mouth and pain relief, if the abscess ruptures
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
If you have any signs of an abscess, it is time to seek emergency dental care. It is important to note that if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms and you can’t get in to see your dentist right away, you should seek treatment from the closest emergency room.
What is the Treatment for an Abscess?
Depending on what type of abscess you have as well as the severity of the condition, there are a few different treatment options.
The first step is to drain it, if possible. Your dentist will cut a small incision into the abscess to drain off the infection. The dentist may also debride and irrigate the area – debriding is the removal of dead tissue that will never heal. Irrigation is washing the abscess with saline.
Some abscesses cannot be drained. In this case, a dentist may elect to place you on an antibiotic regimen for a period of time. Once the infection has reduced in severity from the antibiotics, the dentist can continue with your treatment plan.
The next step in treatment of an abscess is a root canal. The dentist will remove the infected nerve from the center of the tooth’s root. The root canal helps to remove all of the infection and drain the abscess as well. When the restoration heals, the tooth will be topped with a crown to protect against further damage or decay. .
Is an Abscess a Dental Emergency?
Yes. You should contact your dentist as soon as you think you may be experiencing any of the symptoms we have discussed here today. If an abscess goes untreated, it can lead to serious infection that may spread throughout the body, and could even become life threatening. Please call us at 323-457-8787 in the case of a dental emergency.
What Can You Do at Home Until You Can Get Into the Dentist?
You cannot treat an abscess at home, but you can take ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol) or naproxen (Aleve) for pain relief and use salt water or baking soda rinses to keep the area clean until you can make it in for an emergency appointment. Do not attempt to pop the abscess.
A tooth abscess won’t go away without treatment. If the abscess ruptures, the pain may decrease significantly, but you will still need professional attention. If the abscess doesn’t drain, the infection may spread to your jaw and to other areas of your head and neck. There is also the possibility of sepsis, which is a life-threatening infection that spreads throughout your body.
What are the Risk Factors for a Dental Abscess?
The factors below may increase your risk of a tooth abscess:
- Poor Dental Hygiene: Not taking proper care of your teeth and gums — such as not brushing your teeth at least twice a day and not flossing — can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth abscesses, and other oral complications.
- A Diet High in Sugar: Frequently eating and drinking foods rich in sugar – such as sweets and sodas – can contribute to dental cavities that may eventually develop a tooth abscess.
- Dry Mouth: Having a dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay and consequently, dental abcesses. Dry mouth is often due to the side effects of certain medications or aging issues.
- Untreated Decay: Having places in your teeth where bacteria can enter and wreak havoc can lead to abscesses.
How to Prevent Dental Abscesses
Taking good care of your teeth and avoiding tooth decay is essential to preventing a tooth abscess. Use fluoridated drinking water if possible and brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste for two minutes.
Use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between your teeth each time you brush. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or whenever the bristles are frayed. Consider using an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth rinse to add an extra layer of protection against tooth decay and to keep the area as clean as possible. Eat healthy food, limiting sugary items and between-meal snacks. Visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings.
Quality Dentist in South Gate
Regular dental care is essential to your health. Reza Dental Care is here for you and all of your preventative and restorative dental needs.
As your comprehensive dental care provider in South Gate, we are proud to provide excellent emergency dental care when it truly matters. For more information or to get scheduled for an appointment in our South Gate dental office, book an appointment online or give us a call at 323-457-8787.