Treating a Dental Abscess

  • Mar 20 2020

If I have an abscessed tooth does that mean it will require a root canal?

If you have ever been unfortunate enough to have developed a dental abscess, then it is unlikely that you have forgotten what an unpleasant experience it can be. There are the rare few who somehow manage to be symptom-free, but, typically, the pain starts near a tender area around one of your teeth and then gets progressively worse as it spreads through your jaw and out to your ear and seems to just keep on going. Soon, your face is red and swollen on one side, the pain is unrelenting and you are, basically, miserable.  

An abscess, dental or otherwise, develops due to infection. It is the accumulation of pus, which is composed mainly of dead white blood cells that have built up and become enclosed in a particular area where the body’s immune system has been fighting an infection. With a dental abscess, this buildup is usually around the root of a tooth that is infected. 

There two types of dental abscess that are the most common:

  • Periapical abscess – this is the most common type of dental abscess. It develops at the tip of the root, due to some sort of trauma or a cavity or  a large filling which in time will kill the pulp (nerve).
  • Periodontal abscess – the second most common type of dental abscess is typically the result of gum disease and affects the bone, which in time will lead to necrosis and death of the pulp if goes untreated.

Symptoms Indicating a Dental Abscess

First and foremost, the most common sign of a dental abscess is a throbbing and often severe pain at the spot of the abscess as well as the surrounding area. Other signs to look for that may be present with an abscess include:

  • Aching, throbbing pain extending into the jaw, ear and neck
  • Swelling on one side of the face and there may also be redness 
  • Pressure sensitivity making it difficult to chew and eat
  • Temperature sensitivity, especially to hot and cold beverages as well as foods
  • Tenderness in lymph nodes, which may also be swollen
  • Fever or chills
  • Unpleasant odor as well as bad taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing 

These symptoms may or may not be so obvious for some patients, however, the fact that there is swelling and a severe toothache is usually a pretty good sign that there is serious problem and you must see a dentist for a treatment as soon as possible. All of these issues such as severe pain, swelling and infection can be prevented by proper diagnosis, care and close attention of your dentist. There is a period of time where the tooth is asymptomatic and there is no issue. Nevertheless, the tooth still requires treatment! So, one must remember, pain is not the criterion for treatment.

Treatment Options

A dental abscess is not something to take likely, even if that were possible considering the level of discomfort. The good news is that treatment will almost immediately take care of the pain. Options for treatment include:

  • Draining – initially, your dentist will open the abscess with a small incision, allowing the pus to drain. This will be followed by a saline solution rinse and cleaning of the abscess and surrounding area.
  • Root canal – a root canal is not always required for treating an abscess but it is often the best option for draining the pus and removing any of the tooth pulp that has become infected. This is usually the best way to save the tooth. Once the tooth has been totally cleaned out, it will be sealed and may be capped with a crown to make it stronger. Properly cared for, this tooth could last for the rest of your life.
  • Extraction – if the extent of the damage to the tooth is too great to save with a root canal, the only option may be to remove it and then drain and clean out the infection. 
  • Antibiotics – in cases where the infection is confined to the immediate area of the infection, antibiotics may not be necessary. However, if the infection has spread, antibiotics will likely be recommended. 

It is important to understand that a dental abscess will not resolve on its own, and the sooner you visit your dentist the sooner the infection can be stopped from spreading and the better the chance of saving your tooth. Untreated, a dental abscess can have serious consequences.

If you believe you may have a dental abscess or have questions about any of our services, whether dentistry or aesthetics, Forest Hills Dentistry is dedicated to delivering the highest quality services possible. We offer the latest and most current information and services to our patients with a new state-of-the-art facility in Forest Hills, Queens. Patient comfort, individualized care and complete satisfaction are our priority. 

For more information or to schedule an appointment, you are invited to use our online form by clicking here.

Categories: Dental Health