A dental abscess is an infection of the mouth, face, jaw, or throat that begins as a tooth infection or cavity. Although these infections can be caused by poor dental health and can result from lack of proper and timely dental care, they may also occur in people with underlying medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders (Sjögren's syndrome and similar conditions) or conditions that weaken the immune system (diabetes, post-radiation/chemotherapy cancer care). Dental abscesses can also be triggered by minor trauma in the oral cavity.
- Bacteria from dental caries (a tooth cavity) can extend into the gums, the cheek, the throat, beneath the tongue, or even into the jaw or facial bones. A dental abscess can become very painful when tissues become inflamed or due to the pressure within the abscess. A gum or gingival abscess is the result of infection or trauma to the surface of the gum tissue. Periodontalabscesses are the result of an infection that has moved deeper into gum areas, and a periapical abscess refers to a tooth with an infection of the pulp.
- Pus collects at the site of the infection. The condition will become progressively more painful until the abscess either ruptures and drains on its own or is drained surgically.
Dental Abscess Causes
The cause of these infections is direct growth of the bacteria from an existing tooth cavity into the soft tissues and bones of the face and neck.arely, the infection can progress to the point at which swelling threatens to block the airway, causing difficulty breathing. Dental abscesses can also make you generally ill, with nausea, vomiting, fevers, chills, and sweats
Dental Abscess Symptoms and Signs
- Symptoms of a dental abscess typically include pain, swelling, and redness of the mouth and face. With an advanced infection, you can experience nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.
- The signs of dental abscess typically include, but are not limited to, cavities, gum inflammation, oral swelling, tenderness with touch, pus drainage, and sometimes difficulty or pain upon fully opening your mouth or swallowing.
- Universally, there is tenderness to palpation (touch) of the infected area.
If you think you have an abscess, call your dentist. If you cannot reach a dentist, go to your physician or a hospital's emergency department for evaluation, especially if you feel sick.
- If an infection becomes so painful that it cannot be managed by nonprescription medicines, see your doctor or dentist immediately. Drainage might be required.
- If you develop fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting as a result of a dental abscess, see your doctor.
If you have intolerable pain, difficulty breathing or swallowing, any of the symptoms of a dental abscess, or you cannot reach your doctor or dentist during off hours, go to a hospital's emergency department for evaluation and treatment. By seeking treatment before your symptoms progress to this stage, you can avoid emergency department visits.