Is a Dental Abscess an Emergency?

One of the most common reasons patients get emergency dental treatment is for a tooth abscess. When patients fail to treat the condition in a timely manner, it can result in serious problems. Patients should be aware of common signs of an infection and tooth abscess symptoms.

Tooth abscesses can be incredibly painful. They are also considered to be a dental emergency. An abscess is a pocket of pus which is from a bacterial infection. Patients often experience pain and swelling. Immediate attention is necessary in order to have the abscess treated by a dentist. The infection itself is in or around the root of the tooth. The root contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. An abscess can also exist between the tooth and the gums.

Tooth abscesses are typically caused by damage or severe tooth decay. This may be due to a chipped or broken tooth which becomes infected over time. As the tooth’s enamel begins to wear down over time, bacteria can enter the tooth. Other common causes for abscess include dental cavities and gum disease. In severe cases, the infection from the abscess can spread to other areas of the mouth, leading to tooth loss or the further spread of infection throughout the body.

Signs and Symptoms

In order to avoid serious consequences such as tooth loss or the spread of infection, patients should seek treatment right away. Common signs of a tooth abscess include:
* Chronic toothache or pain
* Fever
* Gums which are swollen or red
* Neck or jaw swelling
* Sensitivity to hot and cold, or sugary things
* Drainage from the sore in the mouth
* Bad breath or a foul taste

Below is a summary of common treatments used in the treatment of a tooth abscess.

Root Canal

During a root canal procedure, the dentist or endodontist will remove the nerve, arteries and vein within the root. A root canal works by removing the infection and helps preserve the tooth. Following the procedure, the dentist may place a crown which can help strengthen the tooth.


One of the most effective treatment options for an abscess is to drain the infection. During this procedure, the dentist will make a small incision in the abscess. This allows for the pus to drain out. The dentist may also clean the area using a saline solution in addition to removing dead or damaged tissue.


It is not always possible to drain an abscess. Unfortunately, a serious infection can make a local anesthetic less effective, making it challenging for the dentist to numb the affected area. When the infection is in the lower molars, it is especially challenging to numb. In some cases, the dentist will prescribe antibiotics before or after treatment to aid in eradicating the infection, which also increases how effective the local anesthetics are.


Unfortunately, the tooth may be damaged beyond repair and require extraction. The dentist will exhaust all other options before removing the tooth. However, sometimes removal of the tooth is the only option. Fortunately, there are excellent tooth-replacement solutions which can be used once the mouth heals.

Tooth abscesses are certainly a dental emergency. If a patient suspects they have a tooth abscess, they should contact their dentist immediately. An untreated abscess can result in serious problems such as the spread of infection and loss of the tooth.

Can a Tooth Abscess Heal