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  • Dental Abscess – Types of Abscess, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

  • Dental abscess or an abscessed tooth is an accumulation of pus enclosed in the tooth, bone, or gums.  It is commonly caused by a bacterial infection in the tooth’s pulp from severe tooth decay, gum disease, or damaged tooth structure. It may also be caused by gingivitis or periodontitis. These dental problems can result in openings in the tooth’s enamel, allowing the bacteria to enter the pulp.  Infection may spread from the root of the tooth into the bone.  Trauma without infection can also eventually cause the pulp to be damaged and become painful.

    Symptoms and signs linked to dental abscess:

    Tooth abscess is diagnosed collectively by the symptoms and signs reported by the person, tests and evaluation done by the dentist, and results from dental x-rays.

    Several signs and symptoms of a dental abscess are:

    • Painful, throbbing, and persistent toothache
    • Foul smell and taste in your mouth
    • Sensitivity of the teeth to hot and cold
    • Swelling, pain, and redness of the mouth and face
    • Open sore on the side of the gums
    • Pain when chewing
    • General discomfort or ill feeling
    • Inflammation on the upper or lower jaw
    • Severe infection can cause vomiting, fever, nausea, diarrhea, and chills
    • Spasm of the jaw muscles in severe cases
    • Difficulty in swallowing and/or breathing
    • Swollen neck glands
    • Swollen gums
    Causes of dental abscess:

    Tooth decay and gum abscess are primary causes of infection in the mouth.  This infection can be caused by poor oral hygiene, avoiding routine dental care, cracks in the teeth, failing fillings, and large fillings.   If the infected tooth is left untreated,  the infection may spread to the gums, jawbone, and other areas which can be very painful. Any tooth can become infected.

    Treatment of dental abscess:

    Treatment of tooth abscess may involve tooth extraction or root canal treatment.  The good news is that in most situations the tooth can still be saved.  The procedure usually begins by administering oral antibiotics and then draining and clearing the tooth and other affected areas.  If the tooth can be restored, a root canal is performed where the pulp chamber and inner parts of the tooth is thoroughly cleaned and then sealed to protect it from future decay or infections. However, if the tooth cannot be restored, it has to be removed.  Most of the time, wisdom teeth are extracted to avoid complications of dental abscess.

    In rare cases, treatment of dental abscess may fail because of:

    • Associated periodontal issues
    • Lack of tooth structure
    • Diabetes
    • Autoimmune diseases
    • Complicated tooth anatomy
    • Vertical fractures in the root

    Prevention of tooth decay through proper oral care is important in avoiding a dental abscess. The following are some measures to take to have good dental hygiene:

    • Use fluoride toothpaste and fluoridated drinking water
    • Avoid sugary foods and drinks
    • Brush and floss your teeth regularly as recommended by your dentist
    • Make it a point to visit your dentist for regular check ups and cleanings
    • Replace your toothbrush when the bristles are frayed, or every 3 to 4 months

    The risk of developing a tooth abscess can be reduced by following good dental hygiene. Proper oral care includes regular brushing and flossing of teeth, eating a healthy diet, and having regular checkups with your dentist at least once a year.

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