Recognizing an Abscess in the Teeth or Gums

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From infants to seniors, anyone can experience an abscess in their teeth or gums. It’s never a fun experience, as the abscess usually results in a lot of swelling and pain. Abscesses come about as a result of an untreated infection. The mouth is a complex structure, and there’s plenty of opportunities for bacteria to hide inside pockets and proliferate.

If you suspect you have an abscess, the first course of action is to make an appointment with your dentist. Any delay in treatment could result in the abscess infection spreading from your mouth to your neck and throughout the rest of your body. It’s better to nip the abscess in the bud before it has a chance to become an even bigger pain!

How do you know if you have a tooth or gum abscess? Some of the most common causes of oral abscesses are:

  1. A deep cavity. Cavities, otherwise known as tooth decay, result from an overgrowth of bacteria that eats away at the structures of the mouth. Cavities can range in severity from minor pockets in the enamel to large holes in the inner structures of the tooth. If you’re experiencing tooth sensitivity, especially when eating and drinking, it may be a sign of cavities.
  2. Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Gum disease is more common than you might realize. It involves any recession and sensitivity of the gums. The gums can become inflamed and painful from poor at-home care, hormonal changes, diabetes, and a number of other causes.
  3. A cracked tooth. Often, teeth crack due to accidents or sports injuries. A cracked tooth leaves a channel for bacteria to enter and fester. If a cracked tooth is not treated, it provides an ideal environment for an abscess to grow.

There are two types of abscesses. One primarily affects the teeth, and the other type affects the gums. The two types are called:

  • A periapical abscess (teeth)
  • A periodontal abscess (gums)

How Do You Recognize The Signs Of An Abscess?

If you’re experiencing any of these tell-tale signs, you should make a dentist appointment right away:

  • Pain. Pain could be attributed to a number of things, but it’s a good place to start. If you’re experiencing noticeable, unrelenting pain in your mouth, then it’s a sign something is definitely wrong.
  • Swelling. The swelling could be centralized in one area, or it could be throughout your gums. If it hurts to floss, that’s a sure sign of swelling.
  • Gum redness. Gum redness is a sign of inflammation and circulatory issues. It could also indicate an infection.
  • Bad taste in your mouth. If there’s an active infection going on in your mouth, it will affect the way you taste things. There may also be a lingering bad taste in your mouth.
  • Pain when chewing. Abscesses cause sensitivity and inflammation, and put pressure on delicate structures. If you find yourself needing to chew gingerly, that’s a strong indicator of an abscess.
  • Jaw pain. An infection of the teeth or gums can cause soreness, aching, and acute pain throughout the jaw.
  • Fever. If the infection in your tooth or gums becomes advanced, the immunity response will be activated and trigger a fever. Be concerned if a fever develops in conjunction with any of the above symptoms. It may be a sign that the abscess infection is spreading to other parts of the body.
  • Swollen lymph nodes. The lymphatic system, along with the immune system, is responsible for flushing toxins and infections out of the body. If lymph nodes are swollen, it means they’re being overburdened. Swollen lymph nodes are a sure sign of disease and infection.
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing. If the abscess is obstructing your airflow, or impeding the normal functioning of your mouth and jaw, it’s definitely time to see the dentist.
  • Pus. If there’s a bump in your mouth that oozes pus when prodded, you know it’s an abscess.

Abscesses don’t always cause acute pain. If the abscess has found somewhere to drain within the mouth, then there may be little to no pain. Keep a lookout for the above symptoms in isolation, or in combination with each other. If your daily life is being interrupted by pain, sensitivity, bad breath, or bad taste in the mouth, don’t ignore the signs that something is awry.

Treatment For An Abscess

The first step is making an appointment with your dentist. Be sure to inform them of your symptoms, and if you suspect you have an abscess.

Your dentist will first drain the abscess and remove any debris left in the gums, or the periodontal pocket. Your dentist will cut an incision above the abscess to eliminate the residual infection. They may also perform a procedure called scaling and deplaning to deep clean the area.

If the abscess is advanced, your dentist will order a series of x-rays to determine the extent of the damage. From there, tooth extraction may be required.

Your dentist may also refer you to an endodontist, a dentist specially trained to work on abscessed teeth.

Abscesses of the teeth or gums are no fun, and they’re dangerous if left untreated. An abscess causes pain in the mouth, and the infection can even spread to other parts of the body. It’s essential to take proactive measures against any type of abscess. You’ll be preserving your oral health in the long term, and ridding yourself of immediate pain and discomfort.

Dawson Dental provides premier dental clinics in Toronto and throughout the GTA. Make an appointment to visit our top-rated clinicians by calling us at 1-855-406-2742 or visiting our contact page here.