A dental abscess is not to be taken lightly. This is a serious infection that can result in pain, loss of tooth or worse. A dental abscess is the worsening of a dental cavity on the inside of the tooth pulp chamber. This area comprises the "meat" of your tooth. A dental abscess can also be the result of trauma to the tooth.
More common, however, is a dental abscess that starts with cavities. When a tooth has a dental cavity, it is open to bacteria and germs. If not filled in a timely manner by a dentist, a pocket of pus develops. Since infection is on the inside of the tooth, the pus has no place to drain, creating a dental abscess.
If a dental abscess goes untreated, the bacteria will thrive on the living tissue inside the tooth, make its way to the gum and further still to the bone. Advanced dental abscesses can kill the root of the tooth -- which will relieve the toothache. But don't be fooled by thinking one of your at-home toothache remedies is working -- this just means the dental abscess has gotten worse!
Look out for the warning signs:
- Toothache -- number one sign that something is amiss
- Red swollen gums
- Throbbing/gnawing pain -- especially when chewing
- Swelling in the jaw or face
- Area is warm to the touch
- Foul taste in mouth
- Bad breath
Your Dentist to the Rescue
If one or more of these symptoms occur -- it's time for you to beat feet to your dentist. He or she will most likely prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection.
This will relieve the pain and create a bacteria-free area to treat. Antibiotics alone will not cure a dental abscess, however. Once the infection subsides, your doc will need to get to the root of the problem.
The Root Is the Root
Once the infection is under control, the first order of business is to save the tooth. Most often this means root canal treatment. This can most often be taken care of by your primary dentist.
The goal is to remove the infected pulp and any tooth decay. If this doesn't work, a tooth extraction is the last resort. With a tooth extraction comes the need for dental implants or a dental bridge so that your remaining teeth don't shift. This makes a root canal infinitely more cost effective. Besides, keeping your natural teeth is nearly always the best course of action.
If you're in an accident and/or you've had any trauma to your mouth, you'll also want to see a dentist immediately.