What is a dental abscess?

An dental abscess is when pus collects in the gum or jaw because of a bacterial infection. There are two main types of abscesses: the first being periapical abscess which is when an abscess develops around the root of a tooth - this is the most common abscess in adults and children. The second kind of abscess is called a periodontal abscess - this kind of abscess forms between the tooth and gum in the periodontal ligament.

What causes dental abscesses?

A dental abscess can be caused by the following:
  • A dead tooth which has not been treated.
  • A tooth that has not grown properly and is impacted.
  • Gingivitis as well as other gum diseases.
  • Damage to a tooth caused by trauma.
  • Failed root-canal treatment.

How to prevent an abscess?

  • Visiting the dentist for regular oral check-ups.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene.
  • Avoid smoking.

How to treat an abscess?

To help with pain whilst waiting for medical treatment, the following is recommended: taking paracetamol or ibuprofen, rinsing with warm saltwater, using a toothbrush gently in the affected area or replacing the toothbrush with one with softer bristles, eating softer foods and liquids and avoiding food and drink that are sugary and too hot or cold.

An abscess must be treated by a dentist, it cannot be fixed at home.  Typically, the dentist will drain the pus away and find the cause of the infection. Antibiotics are not always required, but may be prescribed where there is evidence of spread of the infection. Because of the nature of some abscesses, further action may need to be taken, this could come in the form of a root canal or the removal of a tooth. When an abscess is treated by a root canal or removal of a tooth it is likely you will be given local anaesthetic.

How to spot an abscess/ symptom of an abscess?

The symptoms of an abscess include:
  • Swollen and sore gums may appear as redness inside and outside of the mouth.
  • Swollen jaw and face.
  • Pain within the gum or severe toothache.
  • A bad taste in the mouth.
  • High temperature.
  • A decaying tooth.
  • Struggling to open mouth wide.
  • Rarely you may have difficulty swallowing, breathing, or opening your eyes. If so, please call 999 and seek urgent medical attention.

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