Tooth abscess

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that's caused by a bacterial infection. The abscess can occur at different regions of the tooth for different reasons. A periapical (per-e-AP-ih-kul) abscess occurs at the tip of the root, whereas a periodontal (per-e-o-DON-tul) abscess occurs in the gums next to a tooth root. The information here refers specifically to periapical abscesses.

A periapical tooth abscess usually occurs as a result of an untreated dental cavity, injury or prior dental work.

Dentists will treat a tooth abscess by draining it and getting rid of the infection. They may be able to save your tooth with a root canal treatment, but in some instances it may need to be pulled. Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can lead to serious, even life-threatening, complications.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures
  • Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
  • Fever
  • 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 fluid in your mouth and pain relief if the abscess ruptures

When to see a doctor

See your dentist promptly if you have any signs or symptoms of a tooth abscess. If you have a fever and swelling in your face and you can't reach your dentist, go to an emergency room. Also go to the emergency room if you have trouble breathing or swallowing. These symptoms may indicate that the infection has spread deeper into your jaw and surrounding tissue or even to other areas of your body.

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