Dealing With an Abscessed Tooth

 An abscess is an area of puss that forms as part of the body’s effort to fight a bacterial infection. It can form in almost any part of the body. In the mouth, abscesses form in the gums, teeth, or roots of the teeth. People with a lowered resistance to infection are most likely to develop an abscess.

Bacteria can enter and cause an abscess through:

1.     Trauma (food or any debris embedded deep in the gums)

2.     Decay (a cavity) leading into the tooth nerve and blood vessels (dental pulp)

3.     Deep gap (pocket) between the teeth and gums

An abscessed tooth usually delivers a throbbing pain that just won’t go away. The tooth will be sensitive to pressure from chewing, as well as heat. A swollen face or jaw often signals a growing infection, and jaw pain from the swelling might be present, as well. Most people develop a fever, and lymph nodes found under the jaw or in the neck area may swell and become tender. If the abscess accidentally breaks open, a sudden rush of foul-tasting and foul-smelling fluid will spill into your mouth.

Saving an abscessed tooth begins with draining the infection. The dentist will need to open up the tooth to drain the infection (puss) and there will be a need to fill the canal. This procedure is called root canal treatment. If there is no swelling present, the infection can be drained directly from the inside of the tooth.

The treatment for an abscessed tooth should be done as soon as possible. If the tooth cannot be saved, it should be extracted (removed). In doing this, the source of the infection is completely removed and the jawbone and gums are allowed to heal.

In children’s primary teeth, the treatment depends on the extent of infection. If the abscessed primary tooth is still in the early stages of infection and is not moving in the tooth socket, the infection is usually cleared out within the pulp chamber. The space would be filled with a paste such as zinc oxide eugenol. However, if the infection is advanced and has caused the tooth to move, the best thing to do is to extract the tooth.

During pregnancy, a dental abscess requires immediate attention to minimize further spread of the infection at the soonest possible time. Any risk of infection during pregnancy is a concern as the infection can be more severe in pregnant women and could be detrimental to the fetus.

If the abscess is found in the gums, the dentist might suggest that you rinse with warm salt water few times a day for several days. You might also be prescribed antibiotics to help kill the infection lessen the swelling.

Following a root canal treatment, the dentist usually requires a dental X-ray six months later to see whether healthy bone and tissue are filling the area of the abscess. If the bone does not fill in after the said treatment, a visit to the specialist is the next best step. 

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