Karry will never forget her first — and last — abscessed tooth. The San Francisco Forty Niners had just won the Superbowl, and a huge, exuberant crowd was celebrating in the street where she was house-sitting. “I was already in so much pain I had tears running down my face,” she says. “People were honking horns and beating drums, and with every drumbeat the throbbing pain in my abscessed tooth became more excruciating.” She eventually went to an emergency clinic, where a dental exam revealed that the pulp of one of her lower teeth was infected: oh… tooth abscess
An abscessed tooth is a tooth that has a pocket of pus in the tissues around or beneath it. A bacterial infection or gum disease (gingivitis or periodontitis) may cause the bone surrounding the tooth to dissolve and an abscess to form. Not surprisingly, abscessed teeth are usually very painful. You may feel a shooting or throbbing pain every time you bite or chew.
What are the Causes of a Abscessed Tooth?
A tooth abscess begins when bacteria invade and infect a tooth, resulting in the build up of pus. When the pus is unable to drain, an abscess results. Conditions that allow bacteria to invade a tooth include:
- Severe tooth decay
- Break or crack in a tooth that allows bacteria to invade the pulp of the tooth
Food or other foreign matter that becomes trapped between the tooth and gum may lead to a bacterial infection in that location and make a tooth abscess.
What is the Treatment for an Abscessed Tooth?
Treating an abscessed tooth is a multistep process. It involves treating the abscess itself, and then treating the cause and preventing any further damage or injury (including tooth loss) if possible. A dentist or endodontist will usually perform this work. More than one office visit may be necessary in treating an abscessed tooth .
To eliminate infection, the abscessed tooth may need to be drained. Achieving drainage may be done through the tooth by a procedure known as a root canal. Root canal surgery may also be recommended to remove any diseased root tissue after the infection has subsided. Then, a crown may be placed over the tooth.
Removal of the tooth may be required if the tooth decay or tooth infection is too extensive for filling or root canal. Before the development of many modern dental procedures, extraction was the only way to treat an abscessed tooth.
Whatever type of dental abscess you have, your dentist will probably prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection before doing a dental procedure. He or she may also recommend regularly rinsing the mouth with warm salt water and taking over-the-counter painkillers such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Some people are tempted to put aspirin tablets directly on the sore spot, but this will only irritate the gums.
What Should You Ask Your Doctor about Abscessed Tooth?
Preparing questions in advance can help patients to have more meaningful discussions with their dentists regarding their conditions. Patients may wish to ask their doctor the following questions related to abscessed teeth and gums:
- Is an abscess causing my dental pain?
- What will x-rays show you?
- How severe is my abscess?
- What do you suspect caused my abscess?
- How will you treat my abscess?
- Will I need antibiotics?
- What type of at-home care should I receive while I am recovering?
- Are there specific over-the-counter medications you can recommend for me? Are there any that I should avoid?
- Will I need a root canal? Will I lose my tooth?
- How can I prevent this from occurring in the future?
How Can one Prevent an Abscessed Tooth?
The best way to prevent bacterial infections is to take good care of your teeth and gums. That means that you should:
- Brush your teeth in the morning, at night, and after eating
- If you can’t brush after a meal, chew sugarless gum
- You should floss your teeth every day
- See your dentist for regular dental checkups, which may include dental X-rays.
- Follow a healthy eating plan that includes whole grains, vegetables, and fruits; is low in fat and sodium; and limits sugary foods and drinks.
- Good nutrition helps maintain healthy gums and prevent tooth decay
- Limit the amount of sugar you eat to prevent cavities
Once your abscessed tooth has been treated, you can help prevent further tooth problems:
- Brush and floss every day, and have regular dental checkups.
- Eat a healthy foods, and avoid sugary foods and drinks.
- Don’t smoke or use other types of tobacco. Tobacco use slows your ability to heal. It also increases your risk for gum disease and cancer of the mouth and throat.
You should always bear in mind that a tooth abscess can be prevented by preventing its causes — primarily tooth decay. Thus, practicing daily brushing and flossing and committing to regular dental visits can help prevent dental problems that may lead to infection and abscess.