An abscessed tooth is a painful infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth. It’s most commonly caused by severe tooth decay, but in some instances can also result from gingivitis or gum disease, or from a broken or cracked tooth where the dental pulp is exposed to the oral environment.
Common symptoms of an abscessed tooth include swelling, pain when chewing, a constant dull, throbbing toothache, or even sharp shooting pains. Other symptoms may include swelling of the glands of the neck, fever, bad breath, and a bitter taste in the mouth, as well just generally feeling unwell. At times an open, draining sore on the side of the gum may develop.
An acute abscess may at times be nearly painless, while still causing swelling of the gums. If the root of the tooth dies as a result of the infection, the toothache may stop. However, this doesn’t mean the infection has healed; it actually remains active and continues to spread and destroy tissue. Therefore, if you experience any of the above listed symptoms, it is important to see a dentist even if the pain subsides.
The prognosis for an abscessed tooth is good though, especially if caught early. Your dentist may see fit to prescribe antibiotics in order to prevent the infection from spreading further within the soft and hard tissue, and will be able to offer advice on pain relief options. Things such as warm salt-water rinses and ibuprofen can help to offer relief.
To treat the abscess and eliminate the infection, the abscess may need to be drained. This is often done through the tooth by means of a root canal. Root canal surgery may also be recommended to remove any diseased root tissue after the infection has subsided. Afterward a crown may be placed over the tooth. In cases of more extensive damage, the tooth may need to be extracted, allowing drainage through the socket.
The best way to prevent abscesses is to ensure that you have regular examinations by a dentist to monitor and address any cavities present in the mouth. Good oral care and prompt attention to problems that develop within the mouth will help to ensure that serious issues do not develop. As well, if your teeth experience trauma of any sort (for example while playing sports) or become chipped, it is wise to have your dentist at North Burnaby Dental Group have a look.