What Is A Dental Abscess?
An abscess refers to a collection of pus that collects at the site of infection. Pus is comprised of a collection of white blood cells which accumulate as the body’s immune response combats the infection. Pus is typically white, though it can also present as yellow, brown, or green. When small collections of pus form just under the skin, they are referred to as pustules, or, more commonly pimples.
Pimples that form beneath the top layers of skin become entrapped within the tissue and are referred to as abscesses. Abscesses that form in the tissues of the oral cavity are called dental abscesses. This condition can be painful due to the infection as well as the pressure which can build within the tissues as more and more pus collects at the infection site.
Symptoms of Dental Abscess
Pus may begin to actively drain from an infection site in a way that is visible, or pus can begin to drain slowly from pockets within the tooth. This can result in a foul or metallic taste in the mouth and may cause a bad breath odor. If you have tenderness in the mouth and are experiencing a foul taste around the sore spot, you should see your dentist rule out the possibility of a dental abscess.
Other symptoms of an abscess may include:
- Pain that develops after dental surgery or restorative work
- Fever and/or chills
- Difficulty swallowing or chewing
- Unusual sensitivity to hot or cold food or beverages
- Fast onset of pain that intensifies
- Often described as a throbbing sensation that radiates into the ear or neck
Types of Dental Abscess
The kind of dental abscess is determined by where the infection is present. Infections that begin within the gum tissue but do not progress to the ligament, root, or bone are referred to as gingival abscesses. If the infection originates in the bones of the jaw, it is said to be a periodontal abscess. Finally, infections that originate from the inside of the tooth in its pulp are called periapical abscesses.
What Causes A Dental Abscess?
Dental abscesses are commonly formed where oral hygiene has been neglected, resulting in an accumulation of bacteria in the mouth. Patients with periodontal disease are at risk of developing a dental abscess due to high bacterial count and a weakening of support structures around the teeth including gum and bone tissue.
Not all abscess formations, however, indicate a lack of oral care. Patients with depressed immune systems, such as chemotherapy patients or even diabetics can develop abscesses as a result of a weakened immune system response. In some cases, the immune system can be too suppressed to produce the pus which is a normal part of the immune response. If this is the case, do not dismiss the pain and see your dentist at your earliest opportunity.
Patients who have recently undergone dental work, or who have experienced a trauma to the tooth in question should alert their dentist to their signs of infection as soon as possible.
Are Dental Abscesses Dangerous?
Like all infections, if left untreated dental abscesses can be dangerous. Abscesses can move into surrounding tissues and bone, resulting in a progressive worsening of the condition. Because the roots of some teeth are elongated, they can extend into the sinus cavities or bloodstream. Abscesses that move into the sinuses can be serious, and lead to an increased risk of brain abscess or septicemia (an infection of the bloodstream). Infections that begin to move throughout the body can become too strong for even strong antibiotics to fight. Brain abscesses can be hard to treat due to the efficacity of the blood-brain barrier.
How to Treat A Dental Abscess
If you suspect that you may have a dental abscess, do not apply heat to the infection. Ice packs may be placed on the outside of the cheek to assist in dulling the pain until you are able to see your dentist. Your dentist will make a determination about the kind of abscess that you have developed and how best to treat it by either:
Draining the Infection – Your dentist numbs the area with a local anesthetic before creating a small incision to allow pus to drain from the site of the abscess.
Pulling the Tooth – Your dentist may determine that damage to the tooth is too extensive to be saved. In this case, the infected tooth will be removed.
Performing Root Canal Therapy – If your dentist locates the source of the infection inside the tooth’s pulp, you may be a candidate for a root canal. In this case, a small opening is made in the crown of the tooth which allows the infection to drain. After removing the pulp of the tooth, it will be cleaned and disinfected before being sealed with a restorative material to prevent reinfection.
Performing Surgery – In some severe cases, surgery will be required. In this case, your dentist will likely refer you to an oral surgeon.
Whatever the case, your dentist is likely to prescribe oral antibiotics to assist your body in combatting the infection. It is important to take your antibiotics as prescribed without skipping any doses. If you are looking for a family dentist in Sherwood Park for your oral health and dental care contact us at Acacia Dental Centre. Our best dentist in Sherwood Park is happy to help you with your regular and emergency dental needs.