What to do if You Have a Tooth or Gum Abscess

Tooth or gum abscesses can form very quickly. There are two types of mouth abscesses, ones that occur in the space between the tooth and the gum (gum abscess) and the ones that occur in the tooth itself (tooth abscess). A gum abscess is usually caused by an infection that forms. Tooth related abscesses occur inside the tooth when the nerve is either dead or dying.

Since most abscesses, regardless of being gum or tooth, are painful, the majority of people will seek medical help immediately. Abscesses will not go away by themselves so it is crucial that you get help from a medical professional as soon as possible. It can be tricky to decipher whether what you’re experiencing is actually an abscess though, so let’s outline the common symptoms of a gum or tooth abscess.

Symptoms of a Tooth or Gum Abscess

The main symptom for both tooth and gum abscesses is a throbbing or stabbing pain in the mouth that won’t subside. If you have a toothache, it may be the result of an abscess. Usually, the area of the mouth that has the abscess will be sensitive to chewing and it will be difficult and painful to brush your teeth. Another symptom is swelling of the lymph nodes in your neck, making it difficult and painful to swallow, this is sometimes accompanied by a fever as well. Pressure in the sinuses can be another symptom of a gum or tooth related abscess.

If you are experiencing symptoms like the ones described, seek professional medical help immediately. In rare cases, the infection caused by an abscess can lead to more serious health problems if left untreated.

Steps to be Taken if You Have an Abscess

Once you’ve called your dentist for an emergency appointment, there are a few steps you can take to ease the pain while waiting.

Step 1: Use your tongue to gently feel around your mouth and see if there is a swollen, pea sized bump on your gum (this would be a gum abscess). If you don’t feel any swelling but the area is still painful and sensitive it might be a tooth abscess so you should continue to follow these steps as well.

Step 2: Create a mild salt water solution by mixing 1/2 teaspoon of salt into an 8 ounce glass of warm water. Once the solution is mixed, use it to gargle in your mouth for approximately 60 seconds.

Step 3: Repeat this salt water rinse method several times a day to help subside the pain. Hopefully you will find relief using this method, but even if you do it is important to get the abscess medically treated so do not cancel your emergency appointment.

Dental Treatments for Tooth and Gum Abscesses

The majority of mouth abscesses will heal after they are thoroughly cleaned out, the pus is drained and the infection is properly, medically treated. There are three main procedures that may be used to treat the abscess, depending on what kind it is.

If a fistula is present (a hole into the roof of the mouth), your dentist will most likely insert a skinny, flexible material into the fistula to trace back to the original infection source. The material will then appear on an x-ray that the dentist takes and it will show him or her where the fistula leads, which would be the source of the abscess. The infection, once located, will then be cleaned out and the fistula should close up and heal on its own.

If the tooth has sustained a large amount of damage from the abscess, a tooth extraction may be necessary. In this case, your dentist will drill a small hole into your gum so the fluid of the abscess can drain out properly. The tooth will then be removed and a tooth replacement such as the clear choice of an implant will be placed.

If the abscess is specifically a tooth abscess, with the infection source inside the tooth itself, your dentist will drill a small hole into the affected tooth to provide a drainage route for the fluid. The tooth will then undergo a root canal treatment which would then be followed by a filling or crown (cap).  The weakened, dead tooth is capped to protect it from fracturing.

After the procedure, it is common for your dentist to prescribe antibiotics or advise you to take painkillers to further ease the pain and help with the healing process.

If you suspect that you might have a tooth or gum abscess and are located in the Austin area, call our office immediately at 512.341.2321. This is a situation where emergency dentistry is often warranted.

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