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Asking About An Abscess? The 411 On An Abscessed Tooth

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Regular visits to your dentist and proper oral hygiene will protect your smile, but certain conditions may still affect the underlying health of your teeth. Considering almost 1 million Americans visit the emergency room for dental pain, understanding the development of dental pain is smart. While surprising for many to learn, dental pain may be due to a severe infection, known as a tooth abscess. Unfortunately, you are most likely not familiar with how an abscess develops and causes pain. Using this guide, you will have a better understanding of an abscessed tooth and learn the different options for treatment.

Tooth Abscess 101

Cavities must be cleaned out and filled quickly to protect the tooth from bacteria, which can spread and become infected. Without treatment, pus and bacteria fills up inside a pocket of the tooth. This infection is known as an abscess, which can spread to surrounding teeth and gum tissue.  

Untreated cavities are not the only cause of an abscess. Trauma that has injured and broken your tooth will also increase your risk of developing this painful infection.


Pain is the most common symptom of an abscess, but this pain not only occur in the tooth. Most people will experience severe pain that spreads from the teeth to the jaw, neck, and ears. This can also lead to headaches, difficulty sleeping, and fatigue. Here are a few other signs that you have an abscessed tooth:

  • Discomfort and sensitivity in teeth when consuming hot or cold food and drinks
  • Trouble chewing
  • Swollen throat
  • Swollen, tender lymph nodes in neck
  • Swollen cheeks
  • Fever

Treatment Options

Your dentist will make a small incision in the abscess to allow the fluid, pus, food, and bacteria to drain out of the tooth. In some cases, a small hole may need to be drilled in the tooth to allow the pus to drain properly.

Draining the abscess offers enormous pain relief for most patients, but treating the underlying infection with prescription antibiotics will still be necessary.

If the abscess has spread and infected the entire tooth, your dentist may suggest a root canal procedure. During the root canal, your dentist will remove the infected tooth pulp before cleaning and sealing the tooth. After removing the infection, a crown or filling is applied to the tooth as an extra layer of protection.

Root canals are effective options for treating an abscess and restoring the tooth back to a healthy state.

The pain of an abscess can be overwhelming, so understanding the signs of this dental issue is smart for efficient and effective treatment. With this guide and the help of your dentist, you will be able to diagnose and treat a painful tooth abscess.