A tooth abscess is caused by bacteria. It begins when bacteria invade and infect the tissue around a tooth. This results in pus build-up. When the pus is unable to drain, an abscess results.
Conditions that allow bacteria to invade a tooth include:
- Severe tooth decay
- Break or crack in a tooth that lets bacteria invade the pulp
- Failed root canal treatment
- Advanced periodontitis
- Dental trauma
A tooth abscess may cause:
- Throbbing/lingering pain in a tooth or gum area
- Pain when biting
- Pain from hot or cold
- Sudden tooth pain
- Redness, tenderness, or swelling of the gums
- Bad breath or foul taste in mouth
- Open, draining sore on the gums
- Loose tooth
If left untreated, complications of tooth abscess include:
- Loss of tooth and surrounding tissues or bone
- Spread of infection to surrounding tissue or bone
Drainage of Abscess
If an abscess results from infection between the tooth and gum:
- The abscess is drained and thoroughly cleaned.
- The root surface of tooth is cleaned and smoothed.
- In some cases, surgery to reshape the gum is done to prevent a repeat infection.
Removal of Abscess Via Root Canal
If an abscess results from tooth decay or a break or crack in the tooth:
- The tooth and surrounding tissue is numbed and a hole is drilled through the top of the tooth.
- Pus and dead tissue are removed from the center of the tooth.
- The interior of the tooth and the root canals are cleaned and filled with a permanent filling.
- A crown is placed on the tooth to protect it.
Tooth Extraction (Removal)
- Tooth extraction may be required if:
- Tooth decay and/or tooth infection is too extensive for filling or root canal treatment.
- The break or crack in the tooth is too severe to be repaired.
- The infection or loss of tissue/bone between the tooth and gum is severe.
If the tooth is extracted, it will be replaced with a:
- Partial bridge
- Tooth implant
- Antibiotics to fight residual infection of the tooth or gums
- Over-the-counter pain relief drugs, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
To help reduce your chance a tooth abscess:
- Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste after meals or at least twice per day.
- Using a soft-bristled toothbrush or a powered toothbrush.
- Floss between your teeth and gums every day.
- Get regular dental check-ups and teeth and gum cleanings every 6 months.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Dental Abscess; Abscessed Tooth)
Academy of General Dentistry http://www.agd.org
Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association http://www.mouthhealthy.org
Canadian Dental Association http://www.cda-adc.ca
The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association http://www.cdha.ca
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