What is a tooth abscess?
An abscess is defined as a localised collection of bacteria which has overpopulated. It is a long term infection which may or may not cause pain. A dental abscess occurs from the tooth as a source of infection and is usually associated with loss of the surrounding bone.
How do I know if I have a tooth abscess?
Some of the common presenting symptoms of a tooth abscess are:
- Pain when biting down or chewing
- Toothache which is constant
- Throbbing pain which occurs spontaneously
- Localised swelling in jaw or cheek
- A “different” feeling when biting
- A “pimple” on the gum next to the tooth
However, often you may not even know it if happening. Dental abscesses can often be painless and only picked up with routine dental examinations. Another reason to come for regular dental check ups!
There are many pathways that can allow bacteria to penetrate to the roots of our teeth. Bacteria may enter through the tooth, either through decay, a broken filling or a crack in the structure of the tooth. Or through the gum tissue, which can happen during trauma or due to longstanding gum disease.
Once bacteria reach the root of the tooth it cannot be cleaned with conventional cleaning and it multiples causing a localised infection. Although this is often associated with pain and discomfort, surprisingly, sometimes you may not even know it is happening until it is picked up by your dentist.
Will antibiotic fix my tooth?
Antibiotics will address the infection temporarily, keeping it at bay for a little while. Unfortunately, antibiotics are unable to penetrate the abscess and the cause of the infection needs to be diagnosed and treated. IF left untreated then the infection can spread and cause problems with other body systems such as the heart and can even cause septicaemia and in rare cases, death. As you can see in the photo, a long term infection is visible on the xray because it’s dissolved bone!
What treatment is required for an abscess?
Your Gentle Dentist will perform a series of tests (including taking xrays) on the tooth and surrounding tissues in order to determine which tooth is the cause of the problem. The abscess it will need to be addressed either through periodontal debridement, root canal treatment of the tooth, or in some cases extraction of the tooth.
If you suspect that you have an abscess you can book in for an urgent appointment which we will allow plenty of time for treatment, or you can ask for just a consultation so you can find out what your options are.
If you’re embarrassed about the state of your teeth because you have an abscess or two, be assured that our dentists don’t judge. In our nerdy dental way we actually love treating abscesses with lots of pus because it’s the same satisfaction as popping a pimple!