An abscessed tooth is an infection in or around the tooth. It can be very painful. If the infection isn't treated, it can spread and you can lose your tooth or have other health problems.
If a cavity isn't treated, the inside of the tooth (called the pulp) can become infected. Bacteria can spread from the tooth to the tissue around it, creating an abscess.
Gum disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets. If food builds up in one of these pockets, bacteria can grow, and an abscess can form. Over time an abscess can cause the bone around the tooth to dissolve.
You may have:
Over time as the infection spreads, the bone in your jaw may start to dissolve. When this happens, you may feel less pain, but the infection will still be there. If you lose too much bone, your tooth will become loose and may have to be removed.
If you have a severe toothache, swelling of the gums or face, or drainage of pus, call your dentist right away. You may have an abscessed tooth. If it isn't treated, the infection could spread and become dangerous.
Your dentist will ask about your symptoms and look for swelling and other signs of infection in your mouth. He or she may tap on the tooth and apply heat or cold to the tooth.
Your dentist may also take dental X-rays.
An abscessed tooth needs treatment right away. Your dentist may:
You and your doctor can decide what's best for you.
To reduce pain and swelling, you can put an ice pack wrapped in a towel against your cheek. You can also try over-the-counter pain medicine, including acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label. If you smoke or use any kind of tobacco, try not to do so while your tooth is healing.
The best way to prevent an abscessed tooth is to take good care of your teeth and gums:
If you have a very dry mouth, you may be more at risk for deep cavities and tooth infections. To help prevent these, take frequent sips of water, chew sugarless gum, or suck on sugarless candy. Talk to your doctor about medicines that can help.
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Learning about an abscessed tooth:
|Academy of General Dentistry|
|211 East Chicago Avenue|
|Chicago, Illinois 60611-6660|
The Academy of General Dentistry is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping dentists stay up to date in the dental profession through continuing education. The organization also provides consumers with information on oral health care.
|American Dental Association|
|211 East Chicago Avenue|
|Chicago, IL 60611-2678|
The American Dental Association (ADA), the professional membership organization of practicing dentists, provides information about oral health care for children and adults. The ADA can also help you find a dentist in your area.
|National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)|
|National Institutes of Health|
|Bethesda, MD 20892-2190|
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) is a governmental agency that provides information about oral, dental, and craniofacial health. By conducting and supporting research, the NIDCR aims to promote health, prevent diseases and conditions, and develop new diagnostics and therapeutics.
Other Works Consulted
- Flynn TR (2008). Principles of management and prevention of odontogenic infections. In JR Hupp et al., eds., Contemporary Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 5th ed., pp. 291–315. St. Louis: Mosby Elsevier.
- MacLeod DK, Kern DE (2007). Common problems of the teeth and oral cavity. In NH Fiebach et al., eds., Principles of Ambulatory Medicine. 7th ed., pp. 1864–1878. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
|Primary Medical Reviewer||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine|
|Specialist Medical Reviewer||Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry|
|Last Revised||January 24, 2013|
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