Did you know that the oral health effects the health of your whole body? The same bacteria that infect the mouth can travel into your blood system. The spread of this infection into the rest of the body has been directly linked to heart attack, stroke, diabetes and numerous other serious conditions.
What is a Tooth Abscess?
A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that’s caused by a bacterial infection. The abscess can occur in different regions of the tooth for different reasons.
A periapical abscess occurs at the tip of the root, whereas a periodontal abscess occurs in the gums at the side of a tooth root. A periapical dental abscess usually occurs as a result of an untreated dental cavity, an injury or prior dental work.
Symptoms of Dental Abscess
Signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:
- Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear
- 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
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.
Causes of Tooth Abscess
A periapical tooth abscess occurs when bacteria invade the dental pulp — the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue.
Bacteria enter through either a dental cavity or a chip or crack in the tooth and spread all the way down to the root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root.
Risk Factors Involving Dental Abscess
These factors 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 twice a day and not flossing — can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth abscess, and other dental and mouth complications.
A diet high in sugar: Frequently eating and drinking foods rich in sugar, such as sweets and sodas, can contribute to dental cavities and turn into a tooth abscess.
Dry mouth: Having a dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay. Dry mouth is often due to the side effect of certain medications or ageing issues.
Treatment of Tooth Abscess
Dentists will treat a tooth abscess by
- draining it and getting rid of the infection.
- root canal treatment,
- If it’s not restorable, the tooth may need to be pulled.
Antibiotics: If the infection is limited to the abscessed area, you may not need antibiotics. But if the infection has spread to nearby teeth, your jaw or other areas, your dentist will likely prescribe antibiotics to stop it from spreading further. He or she may also recommend antibiotics if you have a weakened immune system.
Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can lead to serious, even life-threatening, complications.
Complications from Tooth Abscess
A tooth abscess won’t go away without treatment. If the abscess ruptures, the pain may decrease significantly — but you still need dental treatment. If the abscess doesn’t drain, the infection may spread to your jaw and to other areas of your head and neck. You might even develop sepsis — a life-threatening infection that spreads throughout your body.
If you have a weakened immune system and you leave a dental abscess untreated, your risk of a spreading infection increases even more.
Do’s and Don’ts at Home
If you have to wait before your dentist sees you, these home remedies can give you some relief from your pain. But remember, these remedies are not a replacement for your treatment with the dentist.
- Warm saltwater mouth rinse thrice a day can ease your pain and swelling.
- Clove oil. The active ingredient in clove oil, eugenol, has helpful anaesthetic and antibacterial properties. Applying a small amount of a clove essential oil to the site of a dental abscess inside your mouth (not over your cheeks or outside your lips)can temporarily numb the area, easing your pain.
- Do not apply any balms like Zandu balm, Moov or Volini spray over your face or cheeks on the abscess area as you may get severe and rapid swelling.
Prevention of Tooth Abscess
Avoiding tooth decay is essential to preventing a tooth abscess. Take good care of your teeth to avoid tooth decay:
- Use fluoridated drinking water.
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between your teeth on a daily basis.
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months, or whenever the bristles are frayed.
- Eat healthy food, limiting sugary items and between-meal snacks.
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings.
- Consider using an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth rinse to add an extra layer of protection against tooth decay.