What is a Tooth Abscess?
A tooth abscess is characterized by a collection of pus that develops as a result of a bacterial infection at the center of a tooth or the area between the gums and tooth. This is a common dental condition that is extremely painful. The collection of pus is made up of dead tissue, live and dead bacteria and white blood cells. If it accumulates in a small area and there is no place for the pus to drain, an abscess in formed.
The more pus accumulates, the more pressure is increased and as a result abscessed tooth is excruciatingly painful. If the infection spreads from the oral cavity and causes swelling in the face and lower jaw, the swollen area can rupture and the pus will drain out of the mouth.
Although the pain may now stop, the infection is still there and treatment is required. If left untreated a tooth abscess can cause serious health complications such as tooth loss, sepsis, infection to the jaw bone and facial soft tissue and mediastinitis. Infection may also spread to other areas of the body and result in pneumonia, a brain abscess or endocarditis.
The common symptoms and signs of a tooth abscess include:
- Severe and persistent (shooting, aching, throbbing pain)
- Sensitivity of the teeth to hot, cold or pressure
- Pain when chewing
- Foul or bitter taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
- General discomfort
If symptoms such as swelling of the lower and upper jaw, fever, chills, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea develops, consult your doctor immediately.
What Causes a Tooth Abscess?
A tooth abscess may develop as a result of a complication of tooth decay (when the dental pulp becomes infected by bacteria). It may also occur when a tooth is chipped or broken and an infection develops in the pulp of the tooth and spreads out of the root to the bones as well as gums, sometimes causing cysts or gum boils to develop. Weakened or poor dental restorations as well as periodontal disease can cause a tooth abscess.
Diagnosing a Tooth Abscess
The diagnosis of a tooth abscess is based on the symptoms, a thorough physical examination of the mouth and review of the patient’s medical history. The dentist will perform a pulp test that involves tapping the tooth gently. He will also ask you if the pain increases when you bite down or close your mouth tightly, or if you have pain around the periapical area.
Help for Tooth Abscesses
Treatment is aimed at saving the tooth and treating the infection. Medications that may be prescribed include antibiotics and over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce fever, toothache and pain. Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water may also be helpful and soothing. Your dentist may perform a root canal to save the tooth but in severe cases surgery may be required or the tooth may be removed.
Natural and holistic treatments are becoming increasingly popular because of the positive effect that they have on overall health and wellbeing. Homeopathic remedies are gentle enough to use in the mouth to help soothe and treat dental problems. Best of all, they are safe for adults and children of all ages.
Carefully selected ingredients such as Acidum salicylicum, Silicea and Belladonna provide symptomatic relief quickly and effectively. In addition, Merc sol, Ferrum phos and Hepar sulp can also help to relieve symptoms of pain, inflammation and infection and support healthy teeth and gums.
More Information on Tooth Abscesses
How to prevent a tooth abscess
There are a number of ways to prevent a tooth abscess and these include:
- Brush your teeth properly twice a day, and if possible after meals
- Floss your daily to eliminate plaque buildup
- Make sure that you use a toothpaste containing fluoride
- Use a mouthwash after brushing teeth to get rid of plaque and fight infection
- Invest in an electric toothbrush for effective and thorough plaque removal
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet that consists of fruit and vegetables
- Limit your intake of sugary foods and snacks
- Protect your teeth and gums from injury when playing sport by wearing a mouth guard
- Visit your dentist every six months for a dental cleaning and consultation
- Chew sugar-free gum to stimulate the flow of saliva