Featured Image Caption: Dental Abscess Symptoms and Treatment
Dental abscesses form due to a harmful bacterial infection. It is characterized by a small pocket of pus that may appear white or yellow in colour. Most dental abscesses are caused by a cavity that has been untreated for a prolonged period of time.
If a dental abscess is not treated, then the infection will spread to other parts of the body, including possibly the lungs or heart. Some dental abscesses can be fatal.
A dental abscess may cause severe respiratory problems and will also lead to the loss of the infected tooth or possibly multiple teeth.
A dental abscess may start small but will quickly grow. You may notice severe or radiating pain, a strange odour and taste in your mouth, boils or pustules forming in and around your mouth, and you may have trouble breathing.
A dental abscess is a medical emergency. However, if it’s treated in time then you may be able to save your infected tooth or teeth via a root canal procedure. You will also be prescribed antibiotics in order to ensure that the infection is completely eliminated.
The tooth abscess will be drained by your dentist or oral surgeon. Radiographs may be taken in order to determine the extent of the damage. If the abscess is too severe, then the affected tooth or teeth will need to be extracted.
Implants may need to be inserted in order to replace your natural teeth and prevent crowding. Here, we will explore dental abscesses further by discussing their symptoms and preventive measures.
What are the symptoms of a dental abscess?
Oral swelling is very common. Gums may appear swollen, and even the mouth itself may appear swollen or puffy when the infection has reached an advanced stage. Your lymph nodes may also appear swollen, and you may have trouble swallowing or breathing.
Teeth may also become loose. You may be able to wiggle your teeth back and forth with your fingers. Moreover, your teeth may also appear discoloured and have a sickly yellow or even brown appearance.
You may also notice a strange taste in your mouth. For example, your mouth may taste like blood, copper or aluminum. The bitter taste may cause food and drinks to taste bad. Another common symptom of a dental abscess is halitosis, also known as bad breath.
Gum inflammation is also very common. Your gums may also bleed when you brush, even if you brush gently with a soft-bristle toothbrush. However, perhaps the worst symptom of an abscess is radiating pain.
You may not be able to talk, eat or even breathe without wincing in pain when dealing with an advanced infection. Painkillers may provide temporary relief, but they will not eliminate the problem.
The only way to treat an oral abscess is to visit a dentist to have a root canal or tooth extraction performed.
When should I seek emergency care if I have an abscess?
There is no such thing as a mild dental abscess. An abscess is a serious infection that develops due to a deep cavity that has been allowed to grow for years. An abscess may lead to death if left untreated.
As such, you should seek immediate medical care as soon as you suspect that you have an abscess. Pain is usually a sign that something is seriously wrong. It is your body’s way of telling you to seek medical help, so don’t ignore it.
Emergency dental care can help salvage your infected tooth in most cases. For example, your oral surgeon may be able to save your tooth via a root canal. If the damage is too pronounced, then your surgeon will have no choice but to remove the tooth.
You will also be prescribed antibiotics and painkillers in order to eliminate the infection and help you deal with the pain and inflammation. If your surgeon opts for a root canal then the procedure will usually be broken into multiple stages and appointments.
How is an abscess treated?
The abscess will need to be drained by the dentist or oral surgeon. The surgeon will make a small incision in order to drain the pus. A saline solution will then be applied in order to clean the area.
The oral surgeon may prefer to perform a root canal procedure in some cases. The infected tooth is drilled to access the abscess. The infected pulp is extracted, and the abscess is completely drained.
The pulp chamber will then be filled and sealed by the dentist or surgeon. A crown will usually be added in order to cap and strengthen your tooth. As a last resort, a surgeon may need to extract the badly infected and decayed tooth before they drain the infection.
In some cases, the infection may have spread beyond the area of the abscess. As such, your dentist may prescribe a course of antibiotics to completely eliminate the infection.
Those with weakened immune systems may also be prescribed antibiotics before, during and after the procedure. Interestingly, some abscesses are caused by foreign objects being stuck in your gums.
In this case, your dentist will remove the foreign object and then clean the area with a saline solution.
Oral Health Matters
Please don’t take your oral health for granted. A dental abscess can lead to severe health complications, including death if left untreated. An abscess can cause permanent damage to your teeth, gums and possibly other parts of your body, costing thousands of dollars to repair.
Emergency dental care is designed to help treat a wide array of oral health problems, including dental abscesses. It may save your life and will also provide you with pain relief while you recover from your dental procedures.
If you suspect that you may be dealing with a dental abscess, then please make an appointment with your dentist or rush to an emergency dental care clinic in your area where an appointment is not required.
By Erin Gregory
who is a blogger in Toronto. She is currently working as a Community Manager for several small businesses. She has graduated with honors from the University of British Columbia with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing.