A tooth abscess is extremely painful. What is it and how is it treated?

Having a tooth abscess can be one of the most painful and dreaded circumstances in dentistry. Individuals with this situation should not hesitate to seek out immediate dental care.

Acute tooth abscess: Characterized by rapid, painful onset. Sleep and overall function may be disturbed due to symptoms involved. Swelling of gum tissue and surrounding areas my be present. It can be very difficult to find relief during the painful peak of a tooth abscess. Daily activities are often interrupted during this time.

Additional Symptoms: 1. Tooth Ache-Sharp Pain or continuous throbbing pain 2. Pain during chewing 3. Spontaneous pain 4. Pain from cold or hot items that lingers long after the source is gone. 5. Foul taste and/or

bad smell in mouth. 6. Possible fever 7. Possible swollen glands

Any abscessed tooth has the potential to become a life threatening situation. Infection of a tooth in the lower jaw can cause swelling of the check and under the jaw bone. If the swelling under the jaw becomes too advanced, swallowing and breathing can become critically impaired (Ludwig's Angina).

An infection of a top tooth may produce swelling in the check, side of the temple or under the eye. The gradual closing of the eye due to swelling and infection represents a dire situation (Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis). Individuals with any of the advanced swellings, in the worst case scenarios, are at risk for death. Although rare, these examples are given so that tooth aches and infected teeth are not taken lightly. A swift hospital visit is a necessity.

How are tooth absecesses diagnosed?

1. Visually: Presence of gum bubble, redness, pus, cavites or swelling.

2. Percussion: Tapping on an affected tooth with a dental instrument will often produce a sharp pain.

3. Xrays: A tooth infection will often express itself on an xray as a dark circular lesion at the tip of the tooth's root.

Xray information, however, can be much more subtle. The dark area under the tooth root may be much smaller in size. Visual, clinical and xray information must all be considered when a diagnosis is made.

Treatments for abscessed teeth.

1. Initial antibiotic and pain medicine therapy if indicated. 2. Root Canal (Removal of the infected nerve in the tooth) 3. Extraction (Removal of the infected tooth)

Once a tooth is infected, antibiotics will minimize the abscess, however, diseased tissue will remain and flare up again if not difinitively treated. Once an infection begins, there are only two alternatives for the tooth. They are to remove the affected nerve or to

extract the tooth.

What causes a tooth to become infected?

1. Trauma: Trauma to a tooth may result in the nerve dying. Inflammation developes in the necrosing nerve causing a tooth abscess.

2. Decay(Cavities): The spread of dental decay through a tooth down to the nerve will allow bacteria to flourish, multiply and initiate a tooth abscess.

3. Deep Fillings: In the case of deep fillings, the tooth's nerve may be irreversibly injured during cavity removal. This can occur if the decay lies deep within the tooth in close proximity to the nerve. Bacteria from the cavity can cross into the tooth's nerve. The nerve could then eventually die and abscess. Also, the actual mechanical process of decay removal near the nerve can cause irritation or damage to the nerve.

4. Existing Root Canals: In very rare instances, bacteria may remain trapped inside a root canaled tooth. In these cases the bacteria can multiply causing the tooth to reabscess and the existing root canal to fail.

A tooth abscess is one of the most painful and dreaded situations a person can experience relating to their teeth. Hopefully this website will help individuals minimize their risk of having an infected tooth by regularly visiting a dentist.