What is a tooth abscess?
A tooth abscess is a collection of pus formed inside the teeth due to infection that has spread to the root.
It is caused by bacterial infection in the mouth and is most often quite painful. The abscess might also come about due to other reasons such as dental treatment or trauma to the tooth. Any tooth can develop the abscess, however molars and wisdom teeth at the back are most susceptible.
The abscess does not self-resolve, and needs to be looked at and treated, to avoid the infection spread to other body parts making you ill.
The main symptoms felt with a tooth abscess is an intense throbbing pain felt in the affected tooth that might come on suddenly or get gradually worse. The pain can spread to your ear, jaw and neck, radiating from the affected tooth. The pain is worse when lying down, often disturbing one’s sleep
Other symptoms felt with a tooth abscess include;
- Redness and swelling in face
- Tender, discoloured or loose tooth
- Shiny, red and swollen gums
- Sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink
- Bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth
- High temperatures as the infection spreads.
- Difficulty swallowing and breathing, felt in severe cases.
Our mouth is full of bacteria that reside on our teeth. They form a sticky film called plaque. When teeth and the mouth in general are not cleaned regularly or properly, acids produced by the bacteria in plaque can damage teeth and gums.
Therefore, the primary cause of developing a tooth abscess is poor oral hygiene, resulting in a buildup of plaque.
This is developed further when consuming a lot of starchy and sugars food and drinks, encouraging the growth of bacteria.
Previous injuries of the tooth or surgery also cause decay and an abscess, as the bacteria settle in the damaged parts of the teeth.
Lastly, a weakened immune system can further lead to a tooth abscess, as people with certain underlying conditions such as diabetes or those on chemotherapy or steroid medications are more prone to bacterial infection.
If you are experiencing pain and other symptoms associated with a tooth abscess, you should go see the doctor.
Your GP will likely probe your teeth, if you have an abscess it will pain when the tooth is tapped. Similarly you might feel increased pain and discomfort when biting down tightly. Your doctor might also examine your gums, and additional order an x-ray, to identify the abscess and how far the infection may have spread.
A tooth abscess will not self-resolve, and instead can spread the infection and get worse if not treated in properly. Treatment will require removing the infection entirely, and will depend on the location and severity of the abscess.
Simple measures such as avoiding hot or cold food or drinks, eating soft foods and using a soft toothbrush can help avoid any pain. Additionally a painkiller such as Ibuprofen or Paracetamol can be had to ease the pain felt.
To treat the infection, we prescribe antibiotics, that include Metronidazole, Amoxicillin and Clarithromycin, to avoid the infection from spreading further.