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Dental Abscess: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

May 20, 2024

Have you ever experienced severe tooth pain or noticed swelling in your gums? If yes, these could be signs of a dental abscess, a serious infection that demands immediate attention. 

Keep on reading to explore the symptoms, causes, and effective treatment for Dental Abscess. Whether you're a dental expert in search of valuable insights or simply curious about maintaining excellent oral health, come along as we uncover essential information to safeguard your smile and promote overall dental well-being.

What is a Dental Abscess?

A dental abscess, also known as a tooth abscess, occurs when pus builds up inside a tooth or gums because of a bacterial infection. This infection usually begins with bacteria found in plaque, a sticky film formed by food particles, saliva, and oral bacteria on teeth. If plaque isn't removed properly through regular brushing and flossing, the bacteria can spread to the soft tissues inside the teeth or gums, resulting in the formation of an abscess.

What are the Symptoms of Dental Abscess?

Signs that you might have a Tooth abscess include:

  • Feeling pain when you bite down or touch 
  • Sensitivity towards hot or cold foods and drinks
  • Noticing a bad taste in your mouth
  • Having a fever
  • Feeling generally unwell
  • Having trouble opening your mouth fully
  • Finding it hard to swallow
  • Having trouble sleeping

The main sign is usually intense pain, which can start suddenly and get worse over time. This pain might also spread to your ear, jawbone, or neck in some cases.

Types of Dental Abscess

The three types of tooth abscesses are:

Gingival Abscess:

This type of abscess forms in the gum tissue itself, separate from the tooth or its ligaments. It usually happens due to localized gum infections.

Periodontal Abscess:

This abscess begins in the bone structures that support the teeth, often due to advanced gum disease or infections spreading from the gums into the bone.

Periapical Abscess:

This abscess starts in the soft pulp inside the tooth. It's often caused by untreated tooth decay or injuries that allow bacteria to enter the inner tooth pulp.

Each type of abscess can lead to specific symptoms and may require different treatments based on where it occurs and how severe it is. Regular dental check-ups and addressing dental issues can help prevent these abscesses from developing.

Causes of Dental Abscess

Tooth abscesses are mostly caused by bacterial infections. These infections can occur due to:

  1. Tooth decay: It occurs when bacteria enter the tooth through cavities, eventually reaching the pulp tissue and causing infection.
  2. Gum disease: It can cause pockets to form around teeth, allowing bacteria to enter and cause infections.
  3. Trauma: Injuries to the teeth or gums create openings for bacteria to enter and cause abscesses.
  4. Poor dental hygiene: When you don't brush and floss your teeth regularly, plaque builds up, eventually leading to tooth decay and gum disease. This buildup can then cause an abscess to form.
  5. Compromised immunity: Conditions or medications that weaken the immune system increase the risk of dental infections and abscesses.

Treatment for Tooth Abscess

It's important to see a dentist for diagnosis and treatment if you're experiencing symptoms of a tooth abscess.

For those facing difficulty swallowing or breathing, immediate attention at the local hospital's emergency department is necessary.

If immediate dental care isn't available, visiting a family doctor is advised. While doctors can't directly treat an abscess, they can prescribe medications for pain relief, offer self-care advice, and guide on seeking emergency dental treatment.


Treatment for an abscess involves a minor surgical procedure called incision to drain the pus and bacteria. This is done under local anesthesia.

Treating a periapical abscess:

For a periapical abscess, root canal treatment is performed to remove the infection by creating a small hole in the affected tooth, draining the pus, and sealing the space to prevent further infections.

Treating a periodontal abscess:

It involves draining the abscess, cleaning the periodontal pocket, and smoothing the tooth's root surfaces to aid healing and prevent future infections.

Pain Management for Dental Abscess

Managing the pain caused by a dental abscess can be helped with the following:

Pain Killers:

Over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or Tylenol (paracetamol)can be used during pain. It's important to follow the dosage instructions on the packaging. However, remember that these painkillers are only temporary solutions and should not replace a visit to the dentist.

Here are some things to keep in mind regarding painkillers for specific situations:

  1. Ibuprofen and asthma: If you have asthma, it's best to avoid taking ibuprofen.
  2. Ibuprofen and stomach ulcers: If you have a history of stomach ulcers, do not take ibuprofen.
  3. Aspirin and children: Children under 16 years old should not be given aspirin.
  4. Aspirin during pregnancy/breastfeeding: Avoid taking aspirin if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.


Sometimes, dentists may also prescribe antibiotics like amoxicillin or metronidazole to prevent the infection from spreading. However, it's important to note that antibiotics are not a substitute for dental treatment and should not delay necessary care. They are used alongside painkillers as part of the overall treatment plan.

Home Remedies for Pain Management

Home remedies provide relief from the pain related to a dental abscess. Here are some simple actions you can take at home:

  1. Avoid consuming food and drinks that are extremely hot or cold.
  2. Chew on the side of your mouth without the abscess to minimize discomfort.
  3. Refrain from flossing around the affected area to prevent aggravating it.
  4. Use a soft toothbrush to clean the teeth and gums.


Understanding the signs and causes of dental abscesses and seeking timely treatment is crucial for good oral health. Early treatment not only relieves pain but also prevents further complications. Your dentist plays a crucial role in maintaining your smile and overall health, so don't delay scheduling an appointment to keep your mouth healthy and happy!

Ready to address your dental concerns? Book an appointment online with Afroz Burges DDS, PA, TX, today! New patients can call us at 281-547-2632 while existing patients can reach us at ​713-340-2889. Let's work together to ensure your dental health!


Can a tooth abscess get better without treatment?

A tooth abscess won't improve on its own. While it may seem like the pain decreases if the abscess ruptures, dental treatment is still necessary to address the underlying problem.

Is a dental abscess a serious problem?

A dental abscess is a critical issue that needs urgent attention. If you have symptoms of a dental abscess, it's crucial to seek treatment promptly to prevent potential complications that could harm your overall health.

What are the initial symptoms of sepsis caused by a tooth abscess?

Common signs of sepsis include a consistent high fever, dizziness, feeling lightheaded, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, confusion, and digestive issues. It's




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