When we think about oral health issues that can arise, cavities are usually one of the first things that come to mind. But there’s another common problem known as a tooth abscess or a dental abscess that can cause significant pain and dental damage.
Before we dive into what a tooth abscess is and the symptoms of an abscessed tooth, let’s first talk about the root of the problem — bacteria.
Bacteria in our mouth
Think about all the germ-infested things that you come in contact with every day.Things like cell phones, door handles, keyboards, exercise equipment and remotes are popular hangouts for germs. You probably even thought of several other surfaces and places you come into contact with regularly that are a breeding ground for bacteria, but did your own mouth come to mind?
The truth is that more than “700 different strains of bacteria have been detected in the human mouth, though most people are only host to 34 to 72 different varieties,” reports Colgate. Now, that’s not to say all of these bacteria are bad. In fact, the opposite is true. Plus, some of the bacteria in your mouth are actually really helpful, like probiotics. The problem arises from the few bad apples in the bunch. The warm, wet ecosystem of our mouth makes it very easy for these bad bacteria to run rampant, turning into tooth decay or an abscessed tooth.
What is a tooth abscess?
A tooth abscess is a pus-filled pocket that forms due to a bacterial infection.Tooth decay is the most common cause for an abscessed tooth, but it can also be caused by dental trauma or gum disease.
Different types of tooth abscesses
When the pus pocket forms between the tooth and gum, this is known as a gum abscess. It can be caused by trapped debris or gum disease, which is why flossing and taking care of your gums is so important.
If tooth decay is left untreated, the infection can spread down into the pulp. The pulp is the part of the tooth comprised of soft tissue, nerves and blood vessels. When the pus pocket makes its home inside the tooth’s pulp, this is known as a tooth-related abscess.
In both types of tooth abscesses, the bacterial infection can spread to the surrounding bone, which is why getting a tooth abscess treated right away is so important.
Symptoms of a tooth abscess
How do you know if you have an abscessed tooth? If you’re experiencing any of the following common symptoms of a tooth abscess as reported by Crest, don’t ignore it. Consult your dentist right away.
- Open sores on the gums
- Presence of a small bump (gumboil) near the infected tooth on either the inside or outside of the gums
- Pain while chewing
- Pus around the edge of the infected tooth
- Persistent tooth sensitivity
- Swelling elsewhere on the face (such as the jaw)
- A bitter taste in the mouth
- Extremely foul breath
Keep in mind that in some cases you may not experience pain, or it may subside if the infection kills the nerves inside your tooth’s pulp. Even if this happens, the infection is still present and treatment is necessary.
Treating an abscessed tooth
Your dentist will be able to tell if you have an abscessed tooth after performing a dental evaluation and possible x-rays. If it’s determined that you do have an abscessed tooth, your dentist will want to drain the pus and treat the infection with antibiotics. Depending on the location and severity of the abscess, draining it may require a tooth extraction or a root canal. Additionally, if the tooth abscess was caused by gum disease, that will also need to be treated and you may be referred to a periodontist.
Preventing an abscessed tooth
As mentioned earlier, the primary cause for an abscessed tooth is bacteria from tooth decay. Practicing good oral hygiene, which includes routine dental checkups, can go a long way.
Before you book your next dental visit, look into a dental savings plan. A dental savings plan is an alternative to dental insurance that works like a buyer’s club membership. For a nominal membership fee, you can enjoy discounts between 10% an 60% on most dental procedures.
A few other perks of a dental savings plan include:
- No waiting period; you get the dental care you need when you need it
- No annual maximum; you can receive discounts every time you use it
- No deductible; you can start enjoying discounts right from the start
Now that you know what a tooth abscess is and how it’s commonly caused, make sure you practice good oral hygiene, and that you have access to affordable dental care, either via insurance or a dental savings plan. If you have any trouble deciding, feel free to call one of our dental savings experts for advice on our plans and offerings.