Regular toothaches are nothing compared to an abscessed tooth. Such a concern can turn your life upside down with an aching tooth coupled with a painful, swollen jaw sensitive to the touch. A dental abscess occurs when a bacterial infection causes pockets of pus to form on different regions of an affected tooth. The abscess can occur at the tip of a tooth’s root or on the gums beside a tooth’s root. The location of an abscess may highly depend on its cause. Either way, this concern irritates the nerves within the tooth pulp, causing inflammation, pain, swelling, and discomfort, among other symptoms. If you have a dental abscess in Carson, CA, turn to Washington Dental for reliable help. We offer convenient emergency dentistry to ensure you don’t suffer from serious dental concerns longer than necessary.

Dive in, and let’s learn all there is to know about dental abscesses. We will discuss the causes and symptoms of the concern and learn how it is diagnosed and treated. You will also find some helpful tips to prevent dental abscesses and maintain generally great oral health.

Dental Abscess Defined

Tooth abscesses are pockets of pus that form within soft dental tissues. They are caused by bacterial infections localized within an area where a boil forms. As expected of most bacterial infections, tooth abscesses often cause inflammation and swelling. It is also common for concern to affect the adjacent teeth and jaw tissues.

To better understand what a tooth abscess is, you must first understand the composition of a tooth. Teeth are made up of multiple layers, and the outermost one is the enamel. This is a hard protective layer that covers a soft inner layer called the dentin. Beneath the dentin is the tooth pulp. This is where you will find connective tissues, including the blood vessels and nerves of a tooth.

It is the pulp that connects a tooth to the jaw. It features a chamber that runs down the middle of the tooth to the root. When a tooth’s pulp is infected, the infection may affect the surrounding tissues, gums, and bone. However, you should note that not all infections originate from the pulp.

What is common with all dental abscesses, irrespective of their type and cause, is that they tend to worsen because of plaque, tartar, and other dental concerns such as gingivitis. Even though this concern is not life-threatening, it often goes from bad to worse if left untreated. Severe dental abscesses have the potential to become life-threatening, especially when they make chewing and eating nearly impossible.

Types of Dental Abscess

As aforementioned, there are different types of dental abscesses. A dentist can predict the cause of an abscess based on its symptoms and location.

Let’s discuss the two main types of dental abscesses:

Periodontal Abscess

If you have gingivitis or gum disease, you are at a higher risk of developing periodontal abscesses. Gum infections and diseases inflame the gums, thus making them swollen, sensitive to the touch, and reddish. They also cause shifting of the gums, creating pockets that are hard to clean. This could quickly trigger dental abscesses’ formation because of plaque and oral bacteria buildup inside the pockets.

It remains imperative only to seek the services of skilled and experienced dentists. Additionally, make sure you take your antibiotics prescriptions as prescribed. Bear in mind that some dental procedures may accidentally leave gum pockets that increase the risk of periodontal abscesses.

Even if your gums are in perfect health, damaged gums may cause the formation of abscesses. Moreover, periodontal abscesses may occur due to continued use of antibiotics in the attempts to manage untreated gum disease.

Periapical Abscess

When a dental abscess originates from the soft pulp, it is referred to as a periapical abscess. Some common causes of periapical abscess are tooth trauma, cavities, or prior dental work that leaves a crack or hole in the enamel. Bacteria can find their way into a tooth’s pulp through the opening, infecting the nerves, blood vessels, tissues, and the bone surrounding the affected tooth.

Dental Abscess Symptoms

One of the most prominent symptoms of dental abscesses is sharp, piercing tooth pain. At the very least, you will experience a dull, persistent ache. Even though this pain is often localized in one tooth, it could be referred to other areas of your mouth. You may feel as though a different tooth is aching or your entire jaw is hurting. Most patients attest to the pain worsening when they lie down, and this causes trouble when sleeping.

Another common dental abscess symptom is dentin hypersensitivity. You may also notice a pimple or rupture on your gum that oozes pus when pressed.

Here are other common symptoms of dental abscess:

Symptoms on the Gums:

  • Open sores that ooze pus
  • Redness and shiny gums
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Gum boils inside or outside the gum neighboring the infected tooth

Tooth Symptoms:

  • Pus on the edges of an infected tooth
  • Dentin hypersensitivity
  • Throbbing pain when chewing
  • Infected tooth feels tender and loose
  • Tooth discoloration

Other Common Symptoms:

  • Swelling on the neck glands, jaw, cheeks, or face
  • Foul breath
  • Foul taste in the mouth (often a salty or bitter taste)
  • Fever
  • Breathing and swallowing problems


Possible Complications Arising From Untreated Dental Abscesses

Dental abscesses should be treated as dental emergencies. An infection can spread quickly and infect the jaw bone. When this happens, bacteria dissolve the bone, gradually causing loose teeth. Again, dental abscesses are often not life-threatening, although they can be if left untreated. You must seek emergency dentistry if symptoms escalate to cause fever, confusion, breathing problems, and a general feeling of being unwell.

Here are potential complications stemming from untreated dental abscesses:

Spreading Infection

A dental abscess can cause referred pain. This is pain that spreads to other parts of the body, including the eyes, ears, jaw, and nose. In most cases, referred pain tags along with swelling on the face. This is often the beginning of an infection spreading to other parts of the body, thus increasing the risk of other medical conditions, including infective endocarditis and bacterial meningitis.

When dental abscess goes without treatment or does not respond to treatment because of antibiotic abuse, this may cause sepsis. Sepsis is life-threatening, and it’s the way the body responds to severe infection. It triggers chain reactions throughout the body, and a patient may experience breathing difficulties, fever, and swallowing problems. Without prompt treatment, sepsis can cause organ failure, tissue damage, and death.

It is perfectly okay to use home remedies to reduce the pain of tooth abscesses. Such remedies can, however, not replace the need to seek professional treatment from a qualified dentist.

Dental Cysts

Dental cysts are cavities packed with fluids that accumulate at the lowest point of a tooth’s root. This is a common concern that arises when an abscessed tooth is left untreated for long. The cavity filled with fluid is susceptible to bacterial infection, making it necessary to take antibiotic prescriptions or have the tooth surgically removed.

Ludwig’s Angina

An untreated dental abscess can also spread the bacteria to the mouth’s floor, causing Ludwig’s Angina. This condition is characterized by swelling and extreme pain in the neck and below the tongue. In extreme cases, Ludwig’s Angina causes breathing difficulties.

Again, this concern is treatable using antibiotic medications. Patients may also need to undergo highly invasive medical procedures to open up blocked airways.


Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection stemming from an abscessed tooth that spreads into the bloodstream. The symptoms of osteomyelitis include nausea, fever, and extreme pain on the jaw bone neighboring the affected tooth. Note that bacteria spread fast once it infests the bloodstream, and other bones in the body may also be infected.

Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis

Untreated dental abscesses can spread bacteria that infect the bloodstream causing blood clots in the cavernous sinus. The cavernous sinus is a large blood vessel located at the bottom of the brain. Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a life-threatening condition treatable by antibiotics, although surgery may also be necessary to drain out the blood clots from the sinus.

Common Causes of Dental Abscesses

Dental abscesses are complicated dental infections. They occur when oral bacteria found in plaque and saliva find their way into a cracked, fractured, or damaged tooth. Tooth abscesses result from rapid bacteria growth that spreads from a cavity and into the jaw bone and soft tissues in the cheeks, throat, underneath the tongue, or even into the facial bones.

The most common cause of dental abscesses is failure to seek proper care for an infected tooth. Your teeth can develop cavities because of poor oral hygiene practices, poor diet, certain medications, and lifestyle habits such as smoking.

Prompt treatment of dental cavities and infections localized in one tooth can go a long way in preventing bacteria from spreading into the neighboring gums, bones, or soft tissues, causing painful tooth abscesses. You can also prevent this concern by seeking timely treatment for cracked or chipped teeth.

Gum disease drastically increases the risk of developing dental abscesses. The condition creates gum pockets that expose the tooth roots and harbor bacteria. Without proper treatment, bacteria from plaque that find their way into the gum pockets may work their way down into the interiors of your tooth and cause dental abscesses.

How Are Dental Abscesses Diagnosed?

It is in your best interests to visit a dentist immediately if you suspect you have a dental abscess. The fact that early treatment is crucial cannot be emphasized enough.

When diagnosing a concern, your dentist will begin by performing a physical examination of your mouth. The expert may use special instruments to tap and pressure the teeth to unveil the problematic tooth. Moreover, the specialist may push the tooth upwards to determine whether it is loose, especially if it is swollen around the roots.

Physical exams are often adequate to establish whether you have a dental abscess or not. However, your dentist may also use X-rays to zero down on the precise location of an abscess and determine its size.  If the specialist suspects that the infection has spread to other areas such as the cheeks or neck, he/she will recommend a CT scan to determine the extent of an infection accurately and provide the most appropriate treatment.

Even though the bacteria causing dental abscesses are well-known to dentists, a professional may also take samples of the pus for lab tests. This is often a crucial diagnosis step, especially if you have several abscesses.

Treatment for Dental Abscesses

Once it is established that you have a dental abscess, treatment can officially begin. The following treatment options may be ideal for you, depending on the cause of a dental abscess, its location, and how far it has spread:

Draining Pus from the Dental Abscess

The main symptom of a dental abscess is an oral boil containing pus. Your dentist must drain out the pus to clear the infection and relieve the pain. This is done by creating a small incision in the gum and using rubber drains to release the pus faster and safely. Your dentist will then sterilize the area using saline water.

Draining pus from a dental abscess is not as painful as it may sound. After all, your dentist will administer a local anesthetic to numb the infected tooth and the surrounding area. This makes the procedure entirely painless and comfortable.

Root Canal Therapy

Depending on the type of dental abscess you have, your dentist may recommend root canal therapy. Periapical abscesses arise when infection penetrates the tooth’s pulp, infecting the connective tissues, nerves, and blood vessels. A root canal procedure ensures that all the infected tissues are removed to prevent re-infection and provide long-lasting pain relief.

After emptying the pulp chamber, the dentist will fill it up, seal it and install a temporary crown to strengthen your tooth and enhance its aesthetics. You may have to return to the clinic at a later date to have a more permanent crown installed.

Through root canal therapy, you can save the deceased tooth and avoid the need for tooth extraction. The treated tooth will be just as functional and aesthetically appealing as the rest of your teeth.

Tooth Extraction

If a dental abscess goes without treatment for long, the bacteria in the pus can cause irreparable damage to your tooth. This makes it vital to treat an abscess by removing the infected tooth from its root. Your dentist will then access the site and drain out any visible pus. You will have to take antibiotic prescriptions to ensure the area heals properly.

If your dentist recommends tooth extraction, make sure you return to the clinic on a later date for restorative dentistry. A gap created by missing teeth can alter your facial structure or create bite problems if it goes for long without addressing.

Removing a Foreign Object

Sometimes, a dental abscess is caused by a foreign object stuck inside the gum line. If your dentist notices this during diagnosis, they will have to remove the object before sterilizing the site.


It is not alien for a dental abscess to be problematic. Sometimes, the concern keeps recurring for various reasons that may have nothing to do with antibiotic abuse. An abscess can keep recurring because the affected site has diseased tissues. Your dentist can surgically remove the affected tissues to allow proper healing. Treatment may, in this case, involve reshaping the gums.

Antibiotics Prescription

As discussed earlier, a dental abscess may spread to other areas if a patient fails to seek prompt treatment. In this case, it may be necessary to prescribe antibiotics to stop the infection from spreading further and ensure effective healing.

How to Speed Up Healing After Dental Abscess Treatment

Proper treatment of dental abscesses should address the pain, inflammation, and swelling. Even though you may enjoy instant pain relief, complete healing doesn’t happen overnight. It remains imperative to take care of the treated site to prevent reinfection and accelerate the speed of healing.

Here are tips to ensure quick recovery:

Use Protective Toothpaste

A basic way to ensure speedy healing is to uphold proper oral hygiene practices. Again, brush and floss twice daily and use protective toothpaste and quality mouth rinses. The idea is to take advantage of products that address common dental concerns such as plaque, tartar, and dentin hypersensitivity.

Use a Soft Bristled Brush

Even though you cannot underestimate the importance of maintaining meticulous oral hygiene, a hard toothbrush can do more harm than good, especially after dental abscess treatment. It is best to use a soft-bristled brush and soft floss to prevent tooth sensitivity and make your oral hygiene routines painless and more comfortable.

Don’t Forget Your Antibiotic Prescriptions

Irrespective of the procedure you undergo when treating dental abscesses, your dentist will highly likely prescribe antibiotics. Make sure you take your medication as prescribed, and don’t be tempted to skip taking the drugs even if the treated site appears completely healed.

Sure Tips for Preventing Dental Abscesses

The same bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease are also responsible for causing dental abscesses. Ensuring that infection doesn’t get into the inner tissues of an infected tooth’s pulp is the surest way of preventing dental abscesses. Better still, uphold practices that keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy.

Here are more tips to prevent tooth abscesses:

Don’t Skip Your Bi-Annual Dental Checkups

Visiting your dentist at least two times a year for checkups can make a big difference in your overall oral health. The specialist will check for cavities, gingivitis, and other common oral concerns and address any issues before they go from bad to worse. During your visits, you will also be scheduled for professional dental cleaning, ensuring the complete removal of plaque and tartar buildup.

Dental abscesses are caused by dental infections that go without treatment. During your visits, your dentist will take the necessary measures to treat and manage any identified infections. This will go a long way in arresting the need for emergency dentistry.

Limit Your Intake of Sugars and Starch

Another excellent tip for preventing dental abscesses is to reduce your consumption of foods and beverages that contain sugar or starch. Such foods tend to stick to the teeth easily, increasing the risk of cavities and tooth abscesses. If you need to take refined juices, soda, and starchy foods, you must avoid consumption when going to bed.

Uphold Proper Oral Hygiene Practices

This is by far the most basic tip for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. Make sure you brush and floss your teeth for at least two minutes, twice daily. Use fluoride toothpaste and a quality mouthwash.

Knowing the right way to use protective toothpaste and mouth rinses is crucial. After brushing, it is adequate to spit out the fluoride toothpaste without rinsing with water. Rinsing with water tends to wash away the protective toothpaste meant to shield your teeth from damage once the bacteria in plaque release acid.

If you must rinse with water, you must use a quality mouthwash afterward. Find a product with a pleasant taste so that you don’t have to rinse it out with water.

Use Protective Gear When Necessary

You can also prevent dental abscesses by always wearing a mouthguard when engaging in contact sports. The idea is to prevent injuries that puncture the teeth, allowing oral bacteria to find their way into the tooth’s pulp. Moreover, ask your dentist about mouthguards if you clench or grind your teeth at night.

Find Washington Dental Near Me

Dental abscesses should be treated as dental emergencies. If you notice an oral boil that oozes puss, schedule for emergency dentistry with Washington Dental. We put great emphasis on the importance of maintaining your natural teeth, and the only way to save an infected tooth is to seek prompt treatment. Remember that dental abscesses don’t clear on their own and only tend to create other health complications each day they go without treatment. For more information about dental abscesses or to schedule treatment in Carson, CA, call us now at 310-217-1507.