Dental Abscess


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A dental abscess is the term used to describe a collection of thick fluid containing bacteria and dead tissue which establishes itself around your gums or teeth because of a bacterial infection. Abscesses are usually put into two main categories;

Periapical abscess - This sort of abscess is highly common and usually begins life in the centre of your tooth known as the dental pulp. Periapical abscess frequently develop as a side effect of tooth decay, a very common condition which can erode the tooth's outer layers and leave the rest of the tooth vulnerable. Bacteria exploit the damage left in the wake of tooth decay to invade your pulp and trigger an infection which can easily lead to an abscess forming. Periapical abscesses can often form if your tooth's nerve 'dies', whether due to injury or damage, and the remaining tissue will have a strong tendency to infection.

Periodontal abscess - This form of abscess is formed in your teeth's support structures and often forms as a side effect of gum disease. When you experience gum disease, your gum is often prone to detaching slightly from the tooth, leaving pockets which are prone to attack from bacteria. Periodontal abscesses can also form due to trauma or damage to the gums and may cause swelling to develop in the affected area.

If you are suffering from abscesses, the outlook is usually good. In most cases draining the pus and the following treatments are enough to reverse the infection and save the affected tooth. If left untreated however, the abscess can burst onto the skin of your face and mouth. There are several other serious complications including bone infection, sinus infection, dental cysts and an infection in the floor of the mouth.

Preventing Dental Abscesses

There are a number of steps you can take to protect against the formation of dental abscesses. The majority of abscesses form due to a complication with gum disease or tooth decay. If you maintain a decent level of oral hygiene then the chances of you developing an abscess are greatly reduced. Most dentists suggest that you should try to brush your teeth and floss at least twice a day for two minutes. You should also have regular checkups with your dentist, at least twice a year so that any potential problems can be dealt with before they become serious. It is important to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and to avoid an excess of sugary snacks and drinks.

Symptoms of a Dental Abscess

People suffering from dental abscesses may experience a wide range of symptoms. However, the most common symptoms sufferers experience includes:

  • Swelling of the face or gum
  • Inflamed skin in the affected area
  • Tooth sensitivity in the affected tooth
  • Loosening of the tooth
  • Fever or high temperature
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • In more severe cases, problems with swallowing and breathing

Treatment for Dental Abscesses

The treatment for dental abscesses largely depends on the type of abscess you have. There are a number of initial steps that will be taken regardless of what type of abscess you have, however. Firstly, your dentist will attempt to drain the pus which usually brings some relief. This is performed either by drilling a tiny hole in your tooth which releases the pus trapped inside or simply lancing the abscess. In some cases an antibiotic will be prescribed in order to clear any lingering infection after the pus has been drained. Over the counter pain medication is typically enough to deal with the pain but in some cases patients may require stronger painkillers which must be prescribed by a medical professional.

The recommended treatment for a periapical abscess, is a root canal procedure. A root canal can help to restore the inner part of your tooth which has died and should provide great relief. Your dentist will firstly drill into the affected tooth and release the pus trapped inside. The tissue which has died will then be removed before a tooth filling is placed which will protect against any repeat infections. In cases where the root canal is not sufficient and the infection continues, tooth extraction may be required. When treating periodontal abscesses, the pus is drained and then the affected area is thoroughly cleaned. Your dentist may attempt to help the gum close back onto the tooth by smoothing out the surfaces of the root, which will protect against further infection. If you are having repeat abscess occurrence then your dentist might refer you to an oral surgeon who can surgically reshape the gum tissue.


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