Dental Abscess Symptoms and Causes

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection. Abscesses occur at different locations around the tooth and are caused by different things. Two types of abscesses exist which are periapical and periodontal. Periapical abscesses are located at the tip of the root and periodontal abscesses are in the gums next to the tooth’s root. It is more common for patients to experience a periapical abscess, which this article will review in more detail.

Common treatment involves a dentist draining the abscess and eliminating the infection. A root canal may be performed in order to preserve the tooth. In some cases, it is not possible to save the tooth and must be extracted. The failure to treat a tooth abscess can allow for the infection to spread and result in serious or even life-threatening issues.

Signs and symptoms which are common with a tooth abscess include the following:

* Toothache that may spread into areas of the jawbone, neck, and ear
* Fever
* Sensitivity to foods and drinks which are hot, cold, sugary, or acidic
* Discomfort or pain when chewing
* Swelling of the face, cheek, or neck
* Tender or swollen lymph nodes
* Foul taste in the mouth
* Bad breath
* If the abscess ruptures, it can result in salty, foul tasting fluid in the mouth

An abscess is a serious issue and patients should contact their dentist right away if they suspect they have an abscess. Patients with a fever and swelling in the face or neck who cannot contact their dentist should go to the emergency room. It is also an emergency if the patient is having difficulty swallowing or breathing. These symptoms suggest the spread of the infection into other areas of the body.


Periapical abscesses are typically caused by an underlying issue such as a cavity, injury, or previous dental work. When the tooth is compromised, bacteria can reach the tooth’s pulp. The pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth which contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue. The resulting infection can cause swelling, irritation, and can ultimately result in an abscess located at the tip of the root.

Below are risk factors which increase a patient’s risk for experiencing a tooth abscess:

1. Poor diet: Patients who consume food and drinks that are high in sugar are more likely to have dental cavities. These can eventually turn into a tooth abscess. It is important for patients to eat a well-balanced diet and minimize the amount of sugar which is consumed.

2. Oral hygiene: When patients neglect to care for their teeth and gums, they are at an increased risk for serious dental issues. These issues can include tooth decay, gum disease, tooth abscess, and other types of oral health issues. Good oral hygiene includes at least twice daily brushing, daily flossing, and regular visits to the dentist.

3. Dry mouth: Patients who have a chronically dry mouth are also at an increased risk for tooth decay. A dry mouth is a common side effect of certain medications. It is also associated with the natural aging process.

Patients who suspect they have a tooth abscess should follow up with their dentist right away. An abscess is a serious issue which requires prompt treatment.

Extracting Abscessed Tooth