Abscessed tooth

abscessed tooth

Many people tend to ignore tooth aches and think that it’s just tooth sensitivity, or they pop some pain medication and hope for the best. However, there can be a lot more to it than just tooth sensitivity. It can be, for example dental cavity. If left untreated it can develop into a more serious conditions, such as an abscessed tooth.

What is an abscessed tooth?

At every given moment, we have millions of bacteria in our mouth. These bacteria multiply incredibly fast, especially if you consume a lot of sugary foods and drinks. The same bacteria feed on sugar, causing a buildup of acid on your teeth, which in the end hurt your tooth enamel and cause cavities.

If tooth cavities are left untreated, the bacteria can cause an infection and form a pocket full of pus, also known as an abscess. As the bacteria multiply, the infection spreads.

If an abscess is formed in gums besides your tooth or root, this is called a periodontal abscess. And if it forms on the tip of the root, it is called a periapical abscess.

If you have poor dental hygiene and eat a lot of sugary foods or drink a lot of sugary drinks you are running a higher risk for developing tooth abscesses. Another factor which can contribute to this is dry mouth, caused by either aging or certain medication.

Abscesses aren’t something you should ignore. They can lead to pretty serious complications, if left untreated immediately. If you notice some of the following symptoms, make sure that you contact us and schedule an appointment as soon as possible:

  • Fever
  • Throbbing toothache
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Swollen cheek or face
  • Lymph nodes under your jaw become swollen
  • Foul-tasting fluid in your mouth (this happens when the abscess ruptures)
  • Difficulty breathing

Of course, if some of these symptoms happen simultaneously e.g., fever, trouble breathing and swelling, the cause can be something else (not just an abscessed tooth). It’s best to seek emergency care and determine the cause.

How to treat an abscessed tooth?

If you (or your dentist) notice a tooth cavity early on and you address the issue, the cavity can be repaired and there’s no need for tooth extractions. However, if an there’s already an abscessed tooth, then your dentist might use other treatment methods.

Draining the abscessed tooth

Before any other possible treatment procedure, your dentist will need to open the abscess if it hasn’t ruptured yet. An abscessed tooth is drained by making a small incision in the pocket and letting the pus out. The dentist will then wash out the area with saline or place a rubber drain to keep it open so the pus can drain and the swelling can go down.

Root canal

In order to avoid tooth extraction, a root canal can also be a good option to treat an abscessed tooth. This procedure involves drilling down into your tooth, removing the pulp and again drain the abscess. The next step involves filling and sealing the pulp chamber and root canal. And if you want to make your tooth even stronger, you can also ask for a dental crown to cap your tooth.

Tooth extraction

Sometimes the abscessed tooth is so far gone, that there’s no way of saving it. In these cases, a tooth extraction has to be performed in order to prevent the infection from spreading. Once the extraction is done and the wound has healed, you can have your dentist place a dental implant or dentures to fill in the gap.


When the infection spreads to other parts of your body, it has to be treated. This is done by medication (antibiotics) that your dentist will prescribe for you.

You should seek immediate dental care if you feel recurring pain in your teeth. When dental problems are detected and treated early, it can prevent further complications such as an abscessed tooth.


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Dr. Nguyen
Dr. Nguyen

Dr. Nguyen is committed to providing high-quality dentistry using state-of-the-art equipment to help you achieve improved oral health and the beautiful smile you deserve.

Dr. Nguyen has served on the Virginia Board of Dentistry and has many achievements such as: Invisalign Premier and Teen Provider, Pre-Fellow with Academy of General Dentistry, Graduate of Aesthetic Continuum, Engel Institute for Dental Implant Training, WaveOne Endodontic Training, HD President’s Club.

Dr. Nguyen enjoys spending time with his wife and three daughters, staying active in the gym, and trying out new restaurants.  When he isn’t at work, you can find him playing basketball, tennis, football, or hiking.

“I want to make you feel right at home, exceed your expectations, and provide an amazing experience!”