Tooth Abscess

A tooth abscess happens when a bacterial infection causes a pocket of pus to form around a tooth. Abscesses have a number of causes and can affect not just the tooth, but the surrounding tissue and bone as well. Abscesses may even affect adjacent teeth. The types of abscesses are determined by where they are located. The three most common are:

Periapical Abscess

An abscess located at the tip of the root of the tooth. These are often the result of bacteria entering the pulp of the tooth through a cavity or fracture.

Periodontal Abscess

An abscess in the gum tissue that supports the tooth. These often result from gum disease and can spread to the surrounding area.

Gingival Abscess

An abscess in the gum tissue. These usually do not affect the tooth directly.

It is very important that tooth infections are treated, as they can otherwise spread to the jawbone, tissues of the face and neck, and even to the heart and brain in rare cases.

Symptoms of Abscessed Teeth

Some symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Throbbing pain near tooth or gums
  • Pain that increases when you lie down
  • Pain when eating
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Discolored teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Swelling in the face
  • Swollen lymph nodes in neck or jaw
  • Fever
  • Difficulty in swallowing or breathing


Treatment is vital in order to eliminate the infection and prevent further health complications. Treatment methods include:

Draining the abscess

A small incision will be made to allow for the pus to be drained. Once completed, the area will be cleaned with a saline solution.

Root canal therapy

If the pulp of the tooth is infected, root canal therapy can be used to remove the infection. A crown will typically be used to protect the tooth after the procedure.

Tooth extraction

If the damage to the tooth is too significant, making saving it with root canal therapy impossible, an extraction may be performed, instead. The extraction will also allow the abscess to be drained.


Depending on the extent of the infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics to help eliminate the remaining bacteria.

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