Dental Abscesses

Dental Abscesses

A dental abscess is a collection of pus which forms in a tooth and affects the surrounding tissue. This type of dental problem is the result of a bacterial infection. Unlike other infections, dental abscesses require treatment; they will not get better on their own.

The bacterial infection is typically caused by consuming too many carbohydrates and sugars and/or poor dental hygiene.


Pain is the most obvious symptom of a dental abscess. This pain is an intense throbbing in the affected gum or tooth. For most people, the pain is sudden and intensifies over time. In some cases the pain spreads to the lower jaw, ear and neck.

In addition to pain, there are a number of other symptoms that are associated with dental abscesses. These include the following:

  • Fever
  • Tender teeth and gums especially when consuming very cold or hot fluid and food
  • Bad breath
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Problems opening mouth
  • Problems swallowing
  • Bad taste in mouth

If left untreated, the infection can spread to other parts of your body. Indicators that the infection has spread include:

  • Swelling in the face
  • Fever
  • Problems breathing
  • Intense pain that does not respond to painkillers

If you are experiencing these symptoms, you will need to see your dentist immediately or access emergency NHS dental treatment.

Types of Dental Abscesses

There are two types of dental abscesses: periapical abscesses and periodontal abscesses. Periapical abscesses are the result of a tooth infection. Infections are caused by plaque bacteria entering the tooth through cavities in the enamel. The bacteria can then break down the layers of the tooth until it enters the pulp chamber and kills the middle of the tooth. The bacteria can then spread until it reaches the bone which supports the infected tooth.

On the other hand periodontal abscess are the result of gum disease or gingivitis. In addition, smoking and chewing tobacco can also cause this type of abscess.

Treating Dental Abscesses

As earlier explained, dental treatment is the only way to treat a dental abscess. Ibuprofen and/or paracetamol can be used to relieve the pain while you are waiting for dental treatment. In addition, applying cooled water to the tooth can help relieve the pain.

In order to determine whether the pain your are experiencing is due a dental abscess, your dentist will examine your teeth and gums and tap the affected area- this will be sensitive if there is an infection present. In addition, your dentist may take an x-ray of your teeth to examine how far the infection has spread.

Depending on the severity of the condition and its location, your dentist will usually be able to treat the abscess by removing the damaged tooth, root canal treatment or surgery.