Tooth Abscess: How to Prevent It, How to Recognize It, and How to Treat It


A toothache can appear with no warning, brought on while you’re enjoying your favorite sweet, a nice cold beverage, or your morning coffee.

Sometimes, a moment of pain is all there is, but sometimes, that twinge of pain becomes a constant ache that can follow you through your day, refusing to respond to over-the-counter remedies. This pain points to a deeper issue.

Even if you are diligent with your at-home oral care and see your dentist regularly, tooth abscesses can sometimes happen. Aside from cavities that have been left to fester, tooth abscesses can happen for other reasons as well. Below is a breakdown of what a tooth abscess is and what you need to do if you think you have one.

Tooth Abscess

What Is a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is when a pocket of pus forms around your tooth caused by infection. Sometimes you can see this abscess if it’s near your gum line. However, it’s often deeper in the tissue, so you shouldn’t ignore your pain just because you can’t see anything.

There are two types of abscesses that can occur: periodontal and periapical. A periodontal abscess typically forms in the gum area around the root of the tooth. A periapical abscess forms directly on the root’s tip. Either can form for a variety of reasons, including tooth decay and physical trauma to the tooth.


A tooth abscess is an infection of the tooth. If you’re not careful, bacteria can build up in your mouth. To protect the rest of your body from the spreading infection, your immune system tries to isolate it, which causes the abscess to form.

If that bacteria is able to make contact with the pulp of your teeth, it can cause a periapical abscess. This is something that most commonly occurs in people that suffer from cavities. Periapical is the most common type of tooth abscess.

Periodontal abscesses is most commonly associated with gum disease, but sustaining a dental injury can cause an abscess as well. A crack in the tooth allows bacteria to enter the tooth and infect the dental pulp. This is why it is so important to get damaged teeth checked as soon as possible after an injury.

Signs of Tooth Abscess

Though a tooth abscess is most commonly associated with an extended toothache, there are other symptoms that you might notice as well. These are some of the symptoms of a tooth abscess:

  • Fever
  • Slight facial swelling
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Throbbing in the ear, neck, or jawbone
  • Swollen lymph nodes

When you experience any one of these symptoms, contact your dentist immediately. A tooth abscess can become extremely severe if it is left untreated. Not only will your pain only increase, but the infection to spread to your jaw, neck, and head. It can even cause sepsis in the long term.

What To Do

As with any type of dental pain that doesn’t resolve, you need to reach out to your dentist as soon as possible. They can drain the pus from the abscess safely so that the infection doesn’t spread to other areas.

If your local dentist is unavailable, there are other types of dentists who can effectively treat abscessed teeth. Since some abscesses occur due to dental impaction, you may need extraction by a specialist.

If the pain is severe or if you develop external swelling, you should head to the nearest emergency room where at the very least, they can provide you with a prescription for antibiotics and pain relievers until you can see your dentist.

Tooth abscesses can go from mild aching to intolerable throbbing very quickly, and they require immediate evaluation and treatment. If you think you’re developing a tooth abscess, even if the pain is intermittent, play it safe and see your dentist as soon as possible.

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Archana is a professional content writer with over five years of experience in the field. Her writing style is engaging, informative, and thought-provoking, and she always strives to deliver content that resonates with her readers. Archana is also a passionate traveler and has visited many places across the world. She often incorporates her travel experiences into her writing, adding a unique perspective to her work.