What Is A Dental Abscess?

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dental abscess is a bacterial infection localized in the mouth that results in a pocket of pus.

The dental infection will affect the surrounding structures of teeth, gums, and bones and cause chronic toothaches and other symptoms.

Three main types of dental abscesses can develop in the mouth, including:

Gingival Abscess (Gum Abscess)

These tooth abscesses are a painful and rapidly progressing lesion that forms between the gums and teeth. A bacterial infection causes it.

The #1 cause of a gingival abscess is the presence of a foreign object. This foreign object could be a popcorn kernel, a toothpick splinter, or something else.

In the earliest stages, a gum abscess appears red with a shiny, smooth surface. After about 48 hours, the bump expands and becomes pointed, and has an increased chance of erupting.

Periodontal Abscess

A periodontal abscess is a pus pocket that forms in the gum tissue. This abscess will appear as a shiny, smooth swelling that protrudes from the gums and is sensitive to the touch. The tooth or teeth surrounding the abscess may also develop sensitivity or loosen.

A periodontal abscess is typical in patients who have progressive untreated, periodontal disease. 

The long-term build-up of dental plaque and calculus allows gingivitis to progress to periodontitis. The calculus is located beneath the gums, between the gums, and along the gum line.

Only your dentist or hygienist can remove the calculus with scaling and root planing treatment using specialized tools.

Periapical Abscess

A periapical abscess forms at the end of a root of a tooth inside the bone tissues. This abscess consists of a pocket of pus that invades the bone and develops due to an infection. Bacteria first enters the dental pulp through tooth decay, a crack, or a chip.

The dental pulp is made up of the nerve, blood vessels, and connective tissues of the tooth. Once the bacteria enter the pulp, the infection can quickly spread into the root, creating a periapical abscess at the base of the roots in the bone.

Inflammation, swelling, and pains are typical signs and symptoms of a periapical abscess. This abscess is the most common type of oral abscess.

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Stages Of A Tooth Abscess In Las Vegas NV

Tooth abscess stages include:

Tooth Decay Forming In The Enamel

The first stage is tooth decay beginning to damage the enamel layer. Enamel decay is often caused by poor dental hygiene maintenance. Most patients will not experience any symptoms at this point. Others may experience tooth sensitivity or develop white or dark spots on their teeth.

Tooth Decay Entering The Dentin Layer

Untreated tooth decay will continue to progress deeper into your tooth. Dentin is the second layer and yellowish. Many people will experience increased tooth sensitivity at this point. 

Tooth Decay Entering The Pulp

The soft inner pulp is the innermost layer of your tooth structure. If bacteria reach the pulp, they will attack the nerve of the tooth. This nerve attack often causes severe tooth pain. Eventually, the tooth’s nerve will die, which is when the abscess begins to form.

Formation Of Abscess

Once the bacteria reach your pulp tissues, they can start to spread past the tooth and into your gums or jaw bone. Initially, your gums may begin to swell, and you may see a small bump on your gums. Often you will feel a throbbing pain in your teeth, gums, and surrounding tissue.

Possible Serious Complications

If a tooth abscess is left untreated, it could lead to severe health complications. The most common issues are:

  • Tooth loss — severe tooth decay and infection can cause your tooth to break down or loosen.
  • Sepsis — this is when the bacteria spread to your bloodstream and causes this deadly blood infection. Sepsis is a possibly life-threatening infection.

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What Causes A Dental Abscess?

Risk factors associated with tooth abscesses include:

Trauma & Tooth Decay Damage

Trauma, tooth decay, or deep tooth cracks allow bacteria to spread to deeper parts of the teeth or gums. A broken tooth can lead to an abscess as well.

Underlying Medical Conditions & Medications

Patients with weakened immune systems or those taking medications for serious health conditions are at a higher risk of developing abscesses. This includes:

Poor Diets High in Sugar

Maintaining a diet high in sugar (sweets and sodas) can contribute to tooth decay and turn into a tooth abscess.

Dry mouth

The presence of a dry mouth can increase your tooth decay risk. Dry mouth is often due to the side effect of certain medications or just getting older.

Symptoms of a Dental Abscess

Common oral abscess symptoms may include:

  • Severe toothache and throbbing feeling near the affected tooth. This can include the areas in the gums, tooth root, or the tooth directly. The pain will typically come and go until the abscess progresses.
  • Painful, swollen neck and jaw lymph nodes
  • Redness, swelling, and inflammation near the abscess
  • Swollen, inflamed, and shiny gums
  • Pain that increases when lying down and causes sleep interruption
  • Sensitivity to cold, sweet, or hot food and drink
  • Consistent chronic bad breath, even after brushing, flossing, or rinsing.
  • A loose tooth or multiple loose teeth near the abscess site
  • Severe ear, neck, and jaw pain
  • Pain upon biting pressure or chewing
  • Swallowing and breathing difficulties (call 9-1-1 if you are experiencing these symptoms)
  • Swelling Of The Face
  • Unexplained Fever

When an abscess ruptures, you may notice a foul taste and smell in your mouth. You will also feel pain relief as the infection is draining. If this occurs, call your dentist as soon as possible.

Dental Emergency Treatment Of Dental Abscess

There are three treatment options available for dental abscesses. They can include:

Draining Of Abscess

If the abscess is diagnosed early and has not progressed, abscess draining will be recommended. An emergency dentist will make a small incision into the gum tissues during the draining to drain the pus. Your emergency dentist will thoroughly clean the infected area and prescribe antibiotics to kill the infection.

Root Canal Therapy (Endodontic Treatment)

Root canal treatment is necessary when the bacteria spreads to the soft pulp and into the tooth’s roots. The presence of a periapical abscess will require root canal therapy to attempt to save the tooth.

A dentist removes the infected pulp tissues in the patient’s tooth and drains the abscess during the procedure. Then the tooth’s canals are cleaned, shaped, sealed, and ultimately restored with a dental crown.

Root canal therapy typically takes one to two appointments to complete. Root canal treatment itself is not a painful procedure. The pain most patients experience is not from the root canal treatment itself but from the infection present. When infection is present, it can be difficult to anesthetize the area properly prior to root canal treatment.

Once the root canal is completed, a dental crown will be placed to restore function and protect the tooth fully.

Tooth Extractions (Oral Surgery)

Tooth extractions may be necessary after teeth are damaged from trauma, disease, or tooth decay. If your dentist cannot save an abscessed tooth, your tooth will need extraction. 

Following extraction, the tooth socket is covered with sterile gauze, and you should apply pressure for about 20 minutes. Sutures may also be necessary. Dental implants can be placed to restore your smile after the extraction site heals.

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Antibiotics For Tooth Abscesses

Commonly prescribed antibiotics for dental abscesses include:

  • amoxicillin
  • clindamycin
  • keflex

Antibiotics alone will not fix an abscess; further treatment is needed.

Tips for Managing Pain

Ibuprofen and over-the-counter pain medications can help control pain from an oral abscess. They are recommended to control pain until you can see your dentist for treatment.

You can also take them together with the antibiotics your dentist prescribes the following treatment. Your dental office may prescribe stronger pain medication as needed.

When to see Medical Doctor In Las Vegas NV

See your Las Vegas dentist for immediate treatment if you have any signs or symptoms of an oral abscess.

If you have a fever and swelling in your face and cannot get in touch with your dentist, go to an emergency room for treatment and medication. Go to the emergency room immediately if you are experiencing trouble breathing or swallowing.

These serious symptoms may indicate that the infection has spread deeper into your jaw bone and surrounding tissue or even to other areas of your body.

Risk Factors of an Untreated Dental Abscess

You should treat dental abscesses as a true dental emergency and seek treatment as quickly as possible, or you will be at risk of severe complications. If you ignore your infection or delay getting dental care, you may experience the following:

  • Tooth loss — if the abscessed tooth becomes severely infected or weakened, even root canal treatment will not save it. 
  • Infection Of The Bone — An untreated abscess can result in an infection that affects the surrounding jawbones.
  • Sinus infections — frequent and painful sinus infections can also develop.
  • Septicemia — this is a life-threatening infection of the blood. An abscess can trigger septicemia if left untreated.
  • Brain abscess — an oral abscess can travel to the brain. This infection movement is relatively rare. A brain abscess is a dangerous medical condition and requires a visit to the emergency room for treatment.

Prevention Tips In Las Vegas NV

Maintaining a good oral hygiene regimen is the best way to prevent the development of dental emergencies and dental problems. Oral health prevention tips include:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Regular replacement of your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months
  • Floss daily
  • Use a fluoride or antibacterial mouth rinse daily to add an extra layer of protection against tooth decay.
  • Maintain routine dental visits. This includes routine professional teeth cleanings, x-rays, and dental examinations every six months.
  • Drink fluoridated water
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet and reduce sugar intake.

Dental Emergencies In Las Vegas NV

Dental emergencies are never convenient. Dr. Marielaina Perrone DDS is committed to our patient’s dental health no matter what time of the day or night it is. After-hour dental emergencies and weekend appointments are available upon request.

If you are ready for a smile makeover, contact Marielaina Perrone DDS at (702) 458-2929 to schedule a no cost cosmetic dentistry consultation appointment. We cannot wait to help you with your oral health and your smile makeover to create the smile of your dreams in Summerlin, Henderson, and Las Vegas, NV.