Back 12 December 2016

Tooth Abscesses – The Basics

A bacterial infection causes a tooth abscess. They can occur anywhere in the mouth, and can be recognized by the pocket of pus that forms as a result of the infection. There are two basic types of abscesses. The first is called a periapical, which occurs at the tip of the tooth root. The second, a periodontal abscess, will be found in the gums next to a tooth. This overview will be concerned only with periapical abscesses.

There are three primary causes of a periapical abscess:
1.    A cavity that goes untreated leading to decay killing the nerve
2.    An injury to the tooth or gums
3.    Sometimes the dentistry performed to save a tooth can lead to pulpal death

Treatment options are -
- to try and save the tooth or
- Have the tooth removed

If you opt to try and save the tooth a root treatment (aka endodontics or root canal therapy) is performed. Any thoughts of leaving the abscess untreated can result in the infection around the tooth spreadind in your body which can lead to severe, perhaps life-threatening, complications. 

infection outlined in blue and completed root filling images below 

Periapical Abscesses - What To Look For
The following are the signs and symptoms of the presence of an abscess:
•    A toothache where the pain consistently throbs and radiates, that is, it can be felt through the jawbone or neck
•    A tooth that is very sensitive to either hot or cold foods
•    Fever
•    When regular chewing or biting results in severe pain
•    A swollen face or cheek area

If your abscess ruptures, you will have a salty, foul taste in your mouth followed by a significant relief from the pain as the pressure is released.
Causes Of Periapical Abscesses
Specifically, what happens in the formation of a periapical abscess is that bacteria invade the pulp of the tooth. The pulp is where there are blood vessels, tissue that connects to the gums, and nerves. The pulp is located in a chamber and a tube/tubes in the middle of the tooth.

The bacteria work their way in through a cavity or a chip or crack in the tooth. Once bacteria have breached into the pulp chamber these bacteria essentially kill mthe nerve and blood vessels, taking over the space, using the pulp as food enabling the bacteria to replicatein number and eventually work their way out of the tip of the tooth into the surrounding bone which causes pain and leads to swelling and inflammatory symptoms.

Abscess Risk Factors
Here is a list of the most common reasons for an abscess to form:

•    Lack of proper dental hygiene. Taking proper care of your teeth and gums is essential, which includes brushing at least twice daily and flossing. Abscesses are only one possibility with poor dental hygiene. Other problems include dental cavities, tooth decay, and gum disease.
•    A diet that includes a high sugar intake. Bacteria that cause tooth decay love sweet things and love them even more when frequently ingested. This is often the foundation for a tooth abscess – a diet with large amounts of sweets and sugary fizzy or carbonated drinks.

Abscess Complications
An abscess requires treatment to properly and completely heal. Ignoring the problem because the abscess ruptures and the pain decreases will still leave you with an untreated abscess. If the abscess does not rupture, you may find that the pain and infection will spread to your jaw and neck areas.

People with weakened immune systems such as diabetics have a greater risk of the infection spreading to other parts of the body.

When To See A Dentist
Any of the above signs or symptoms are alerts that you should see your dentist immediately. If swelling or a fever is present, or if you are having trouble breathing or swallowing and cannot reach a dentist, go to the hospital or your local A & E room. Still unsure?

Need to know more – Contact Milford Dentists now - (09)4896575

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