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A dental abscess is a bacterial infection of the mouth that originates as a tooth infection or cavity and spreads to the surrounding tissue. Bacteria from dental caries may extend into the gums, the cheek, the throat, beneath the tongue, or even into the jaw or facial bones. As tissues become inflamed or due to the pressure within the abscess, a dental abscess might be very painful. A gum or gingival abscess is the result of infection or trauma to the surface of the gum tissue.

Poor dental hygiene – not cleaning your teeth and gums properly and regularly (read our advice on how to brush and floss your teeth) and consuming lots of sugary or starchy food and drink, i.e. the carbohydrates contained encourage bacteria to grow, causing tooth decay are amongst the main caused of dental abscess. However it may also occur with underlying medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders or conditions that weaken the immune system (diabetes, post-radiation/ chemotherapy cancer care). Dental abscesses can also be triggered by minor trauma in the oral cavity. Other causes of tooth abscess are trauma to the tooth, such as when it is broken or chipped, and gingivitis or gum disease.

Symptom of a dental abscess:

  • Severe, throbbing pain, usually comes on suddenly and gradually worse over a few hours or days, and causes teeth to be tender and sensitive
  • Fever
  • Pain when chewing
  • Sensitivity of the teeth to hot or cold
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Foul smell to the breath
  • Swollen neck glands
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
  • Redness and swelling of the gums
  • Swollen area of the upper or lower jaw
  • An open, draining sore on the side of the gum

Two types of dental abscess:

  1. Periapical abscess – where the abscess forms under the tooth
    Bacteria enter the tooth through tiny holes of the tooth decay (caries) that form in the tooth enamel (hard outer layer of the tooth). The caries eventually break down the softer layer of tissue, dentine, under the enamel. If the decay continues, the hole will eventually penetrate the soft inner pulp of the tooth causing pulpitis. As the pulpitis progresses the bacteria make their way to the bone that surrounds and supports the tooth, called the alveolar bone, and a periapical abscess is formed.
  2. Periodontal abscess – where the abscess forms in the supporting gum and bone
    When bacteria which are present in plaque infect the gums the patient has periodontis. The gums become inflamed, which can make the periodontal ligament (tissue surrounding the root of the tooth) separate from the base of the tooth. A periodontal pocket, a tiny gap, is formed when the periodontal ligament separates from the root. The pocket gets dirty easily and is very hard to keep clean. As bacteria build up in the periodontal pocket, periodontal abscess is formed.

If you think you might have a dental abscess, do not delay until it worsened, makes a dentist appointment with us now!