Tooth Abscess 101: Everything You Need to Know

Tooth abscess 101: everything you need to know
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Tooth abscesses are oral health conditions that require prompt treatment. Over time, if not treated, an abscess will not improve. You must see your emergency dentist immediately. Otherwise, the infection will worsen and spread to other body parts (sepsis).

Are you having a dental emergency? Don’t panic. Contact Bristol Dental Clinic at 866-673-2109.

What is a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection. It looks like a red, swollen pimple or boils on your gums. The abscess forms around the gums or root of the infected tooth. However, it can spread to the surrounding teeth, bone, and tissue.


The following types of bacterial infections cause tooth abscesses. They are the following:

  1. Gingival: This bacterial infection exists in your gums. Typically, it doesn’t affect your teeth or jawbone.
  2. Periapical: Periapical abscesses occur after a tooth has decayed or is damaged. Cracks, fractures, deep cavities, and severe tooth decay expose the innermost part of the tooth (called the pulp) to bacteria. Bacteria enter your tooth and cause infection, which spreads to the tip of your tooth’s root and the surrounding bone.
  3. Periodontal: Periodontal abscesses affect the bone and tissues that support your teeth. This type of infection usually results from gum disease. 

Anything that leaves an opening for bacteria to enter your tooth or surrounding tissues can create an abscess. 

Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth

The most common symptom of a tooth abscess is a painful, throbbing toothache. The pain is sharp and shooting, especially when you put pressure on the tooth. It’s often continuous and worsens when chewing. However, there are other symptoms as well:

  • Sharp, throbbing pain that radiates to your jawbone, neck or ear.
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
  • A bad or bitter taste in your mouth.
  • Bad breath (halitosis).
  • The affected tooth begins to loosen.
  • Gum redness and swelling.
  • Swollen area in your upper or lower jaw.
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing.
  • Open, draining sore on the side of your gums.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Fever.

You need to contact your emergency dentist immediately if you have a fever and facial swelling or it’s difficult to breathe or swallow. Alternatively, go to the emergency room at the nearest hospital. 

These signs indicate that the infection has spread to other parts of your body.

Diagnosing a Tooth Abscess

Your Mississauga dentist or endodontist will be able to diagnose a potential abscess. First, they examine the tooth and surrounding tissue for signs of infection. Then, they may perform additional tests before diagnosing you with an abscess:

  • Tap and Press on Your Teeth: Abscessed teeth are sensitive to touch and pressure. If your tooth has an abscess, it will hurt when the dentist touches it.
  • Dental X-Ray: Your dentist will use an x-ray to help determine the cause of the abscessed tooth. It also reveals if the infection has spread to other areas.
  • CT Scan: A CT scan shows if the infection has spread to other areas within your neck, helping your dentist to determine the extent and severity.
  • Thermal Tests: These tests indicate the overall health of the tooth pulp.

Treatments for Tooth Abscesses

Tooth abscesses do not go away on their own. They require professional treatment from your emergency dentist in Mississauga. Depending on the severity of the infection and abscess, your dentist will recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Incision and Drainage: The dentist makes a small incision in the abscess, allowing the pus to drain. They wash the area with a saline solution (salt water). Your dentist may also place a small rubber drain to keep the incision open, so the entirety of the infection can drain out as swelling decreases.
  • Antibiotics: Although antibiotics will not cure the abscess, you may still need them. Generally, dentists don’t prescribe antibiotics if the infection is limited to the abscessed area. If it has already reached nearby teeth, jawbone, or soft tissue, antibiotics are necessary to stop it from spreading further. 

    Dentists prescribe antibiotics to patients with weakened immune systems, regardless.

  • Root canal: A root canal is the most common treatment for a tooth abscess. Why? It’s the best way to save your tooth while removing the infection. The dentist removes the infected pulp during a root canal and cleans the affected area. 

    The space is filled and sealed to prevent infection from recurring with a filling or a crown. After your tooth has healed from the root canal, it will function like before, but without the pain. The restored tooth can last a lifetime if cared for properly.

  • Tooth Extraction: Your dentist will always try to save your natural tooth, which is why root canals are the preferred method of treating dental abscesses. However, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, the abscessed tooth is severely damaged, and the dentist must remove it. 

Pain Relief Before Your Appointment

If you have a tooth abscess, visit your dentist as soon as possible. Remember, your abscess will not go away without professional treatment. You can relieve the pain of a tooth abscess before your appointment by rinsing with warm salt winter or taking over-the-counter pain relievers (like acetaminophen or ibuprofen).

How to Prevent Abscessed Teeth

Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing a tooth abscess. First and foremost, you should visit Bristol Dental Clinic regularly for routine dental check-ups and cleanings. 

You must take care of your oral health at home by maintaining a consistent and rigorous hygiene regime (brush twice daily for two minutes and floss once daily). Limit your consumption of sugar to reduce your risk of cavities, which can lead to infection.

Additionally, you should contact your emergency dentist immediately if you damage a tooth. Broken, cracked, fractured, or loose teeth require prompt treatment to prevent infection and preserve the tooth.

Need an Emergency Dentist in Mississauga? Contact Bristol Dental

Contact Bristol Dental Clinic immediately if you have a dental abscess or damaged tooth. We treat emergencies on the same day so you can return to feeling healthy and pain-free. 

Our team of emergency dentists and friendly staff are ready to welcome you to Mississauga. Call us today.

If you need an emergency dentist in Mississauga, call Bristol Dental Clinic at 866-673-2109 or contact us here.

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