The Ins and Outs of an Abscessed Tooth

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If you or someone you know has an abscessed tooth, also known as a periapical abscess, the tooth has a pocket of pus (fluid) in it caused by a bacterial infection. This occurs when the nerve of a tooth is dying or dead, and develops on the tip of the tooth’s root and spreads out. If this thick, yellowish fluid is not drained, the tissue surrounding it becomes swollen and most often, painful. To prevent the spread of this bacterial infection, the body’s defense has created this abscess as a barrier around the infection.

Things to know about an abscess

  • Sometimes the body forms a tunnel–a fistula or sinus tract–through the bone and skin to let the pus drain out. If this happens and pus is draining out, there will be an unusual and unpleasant taste in the mouth. Although the drainage lowers the pressure of the abscess, the infection doesn’t go away on its own, so it will still need to be treated, usually by using antibiotics.
  • An abscessed tooth can erupt as a result of a variety of factors, including severe tooth decay, a tooth injury, or gum disease.
  • Although an abscessed tooth is usually painful, this is not always the case. If the abscessed tooth is not painful and the abscess is untreated, the infection can last for months or years.
  • Signs that indicate a possible abscessed tooth include: smelly breath, a bitter taste in the mouth, fever, pain, swollen neck glands, red or swollen gums, and a feeling of illness and general discomfort.
  • The abscessed tooth infection will eventually damage the surrounding area—such as the bone and teeth as it spreads to other areas of the body, destroying tissue as it travels. Timely treatment will help prevent this from happening.

Treating an abscessed tooth involves finding out where the abscess originated and then cleaning it out. If the infection is inside a tooth, your tooth will be drained by making a hole and you will need a root canal followed with a filling or a crown. If the abscess in the tooth is large it may need to be extracted. You will also receive antibiotics to heal the infected tissue.

Dr. Gregory Dvorak is here to keep your smile healthy and strong. Please reach out to our New Prague Gentle Dental Care team in New Prague, Minnesota at 952-758-3003 today for assistance!

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