An abscessed tooth develops as the result of a painful infection that takes root at the base of a tooth or between the tooth and gum line. Your McKinney family dentist often sees patients develop oral abscesses due to severe tooth decay. Tooth trauma – such as a break or chip – gum disease, and tooth loss also ranks as additional causes of tooth abscesses.
Each of these issues result in an opening along the gum line or tooth enamel that allows bacteria to infect the delicate center of the tooth known as the pulp. An oral infection may also spread from the root of a tooth to the supporting bone structure. In extreme cases, an oral infection may spread to other areas of the body such as the brain, which could be fatal.
The Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth
A severe toothache that does not go way and results in a throbbing, gnawing pain, or shooting pain are the most common symptoms of an abscessed tooth. Other symptoms of the condition may include:
- Discomfort or pain from chewing
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks
- A reoccurring bitter taste in the mouth
- Foul smelling breath
- Swollen neck glands
- General oral discomfort or pain
- Swelling or redness of gum tissue
- Swollen upper or lower jaw
- An open, draining sore along the gum line
If the pulp in the root of a tooth dies as the result of an infection, the toothache may stop. However, this doesn’t mean the infection has healed. In fact, the infection remains active and continues to spread and destroy healthy tissue. If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, it’s imperative that you schedule an exam with Dr. Lawrence immediately.
Diagnosing an Abscessed Tooth
Dr. Lawrence will begin your exam by probing your teeth with a dental instrument. If you’ve developed an abscessed tooth, you will feel pain when the tooth is touched by Dr. Lawrence’s probe. Dr. Lawrence will also ask you if the pain increases when you bite down or when you close your mouth tightly. Additionally, Dr. Lawrence may suspect an abscessed tooth if your gums are red or swollen.
Treating an Abscessed Tooth
There are a number of treatment options for eliminating the infection, saving the tooth, and preventing further complication from developing.
To eliminate the infection, Dr. Lawrence may need to drain the abscess. Draining the abscess may require a root canal. Root surgery may also be recommended to remove any diseased root tissue after the infection has been eliminated. In some cases, a crown may need to be placed over the tooth.
The tooth may also be extracted, allowing drainage to occur through the now open socket.
Finally, a third way to treat the abscess would be for Dr. Lawrence to make a slight incision into the swollen gum tissue which would allow the pus inside to slowly drain out.
Dr. Lawrence may prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection caused by an abscess. To relieve any discomfort associated with the abscess, a warm salt-water rinse and over-the-counter medication can be used.