Abscessed Tooth

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What is an abscessed tooth?

When you have tooth decay or gum disease, you can get infection deep within the tooth or gum. This infection is an abscessed tooth and can be very painful. If it is not treated, the infection can spread and you can lose your tooth or have other health problems.

What causes an abscessed tooth?

Damage to the tooth, an untreated cavity, or gum disease can cause an abscessed tooth.

If a cavity is not treated, the inside of the tooth (called the pulp) can become infected. Bacteria can spread from the tooth to the tissue around it, creating an abscess.

Gum disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets. If food builds up in one of these pockets, bacteria can grow, and an abscess can form. Over time an abscess can cause the bone around the tooth to dissolve.

What are the symptoms?

You may have:

•Throbbing pain, especially when you chew.
•Red, swollen gums.
•A bad, salty taste in your mouth.
•Swelling in your jaw or face.
•A fever.
•A bump (gumboil) that looks like a pimple on the cheek side or tongue side of the gum near the tooth.

Over time as the infection spreads, the bone in your jaw may begin to dissolve. When this happens, you may feel less pain, but the infection will remain. If you lose too much bone, your tooth will become loose and may have to be removed.

If you have a severe toothache or notice drainage of pus, call your dentist right away. You may have an abscessed tooth. If it is not treated, the infection could spread and become dangerous.

How is it treated?

If you have an abscessed tooth, your dentist will give you antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the infection. Antibiotics may help for a while. But to get rid of the abscess, your dentist will need to get rid off the source of infection. This is done by making hole in the tooth or gum to drain the infection. Usually this will relieve your pain.

If the inside of your tooth is infected, you will need a root canal or to have the tooth removed. A root canal tries to save your tooth by taking out the infected pulp. If you don’t want a root canal or if you have one and it doesn’t work, the dentist may have to remove your tooth. You and your doctor can decide the best step to take.

You may be able to reduce pain and swelling from an abscessed tooth by putting an ice pack wrapped in a towel against your cheek. You can also try over-the-counter pain medicine, including aspirin, acetaminophen (such as Tylenol) or ibuprofen (such as Advil or Motrin). But you still need to see your dentist for treatment.

Information provided by WebMD, www.webmd.com