How Do I Know If I Have a Tooth Abscess?

Toothaches can be debilitating and cause a great deal of pain. Initially the patient may start to notice swelling of the jaw or gum. It is also possible for the tooth to change color. When the patient has difficulty opening their mouth or if they have a foul taste in their mouth, it could indicate they have a severe infection in the tooth. There are many nerves within the teeth, making a toothache quite painful. It is also possible for the pain to be caused by another oral health issue that requires treatment.

Tooth Abscess

A tooth abscess occurs when there is a pocket of pus. The pocket could be on the surface of the teeth and gums or below the surface. A bacterial infection causes the infection and prompt treatment is required from a dentist. Unfortunately, a tooth abscess will not go away on its own.

When a tooth infection or abscess is not treated, it can spread to other parts of the body and result in life-threatening conditions. Patients who fail to obtain treatment in a timely manner are also more likely to lose the tooth.

Below are signs and symptoms associated with a tooth infection or abscess:

1. Fever
2. Sensitive to hot, cold, acidic, or sugary foods
3. Change in color of the tooth
4. Swelling of the face, gums, or jaw
5. Elevated swelling around a tooth which looks similar to a pimple
6. Sour taste in the mouth or bad breath
7. Drainage or a leaking sore
8. Challenges moving jaw, eating, or opening the mouth
9. Throbbing pain in the mouth
10. Pain that worsens when lying down
11. Earache or headache
12. Flu-like symptoms, body aches, or sickness

Some of the most common causes of a tooth infection are listed below:

* Decay or cavities which are not treated
* Poor oral hygiene
* A diet high in acidic or sugary foods
* Broken or damaged dental work
* Immune system which is compromised
* Trauma to the teeth, gums, or mouth
* Smoking
* Chronically dry mouth
* Cracked or chipped tooth
* Gum disease or excess plaque


If a patient thinks they have a tooth infection, they should contact their dentist immediately. Various treatments can be used to eliminate the infection.

The symptoms may go away periodically or the pain may subside, however, this does not indicate the infection has been eliminated. It is actually possible for the infection to kill the nerves and eliminate the sensation of pain. The infection is unfortunately still present and can spread to other parts of the body. This can result in serious and long-term damage.

One treatment to eliminate a tooth abscess is a root canal. During this procedure, the dentist or endodontist will remove the infected pulp and treat the infection. The dentist may prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the infection. Antibiotics are commonly used before a root canal prore. Patients may also be placed on antibiotics after treatment to prevent the spread of infection.

The dentist may choose to drain an abscess. They will make a small incision or cut the tooth to allow the pus and infection to run out. When the tooth is beyond repair and has been destroyed by the infection, it may need to be extracted. Dental professionals will work diligently to preserve the tooth, however, it may be beyond treatment. Following the treatment of the infection, there are various tooth-replacement options such as dental implants which can aid in restoring the function and appearance of the tooth.

Tooth infections and abscesses will not go away on their own without treatment. Abscesses which are not treated can spread to other parts of the body and result in serious issues. There are various treatment options such as draining the pus, antibiotics, a root canal, or extraction which can be used.

Is a Dental Abscess an Emergency