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Dental Abscess       

Dental Abscess or Tooth Abscess or Mouth Abscess or Odontogenic Infection or Tooth Infection is an inflamed, pus filled lump in the bone or soft tissues of the jaw.

tooth decay, dental caries, dental cavity, bad tooth, root canal, toothache, toothpaste

A dental abscess is an infection of the mouth, face, jaw, or throat that begins as a tooth infection or cavity. These infections are common in people with poor dental health and result from lack of proper and timely dental care.

Bacteria from a 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.

Pus collects at the site of the infection and will become progressively more painful until it either ruptures and drains on its own or is drained surgically.

Sometimes the infection can progress to the point where swelling threatens to block the airway, causing difficulty breathing. Dental abscesses can also make you generally ill, with nausea, vomiting, fevers, chills, and sweats.


Tooth Abscess Causes and Symptoms

The cause of these infections is direct growth of the bacteria from an existing cavity into the soft tissues and bones of the face and neck:
  • an injury to the tooth
  • a crack or chip in the tooth
  • a damage to a tooth may cause pulp spoil even if the tooth has no visible chips or cracks
  • tenderness to touch and chewing
  • swelling, drainage and tenderness in the lymph nodes as well as nearby bone and gingival tissues
  • sometimes, however, there are no symptoms
  • left without treatment, pus builds up at the root tip, in the jawbone, forming a "pus-pocket"
  • an abscess can cause damage to the bone around the teeth
Therefore, symptoms of a tooth abscess typically include pain, swelling, and redness of the mouth and face. With an advanced infection, you can suffer nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, and diarrhea.

The List of Signs

Note that mouth abscess symptoms usually refers to various symptoms known to a patient, but the phrase Dental abscess signs may refer to those signs only noticable by a dentist.


The signs of tooth abscess typically include, but are not limited to, cavities, gum inflammation, oral swelling, tenderness with touch, pus drainage, and sometimes difficulty fully opening your mouth or swallowing.

When to Seek Medical Care

If you think you have an abscess, call your dentist. If you cannot reach a dentist, go to 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 for drainage.
  • If you develop fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea as a result of a dental abscess, see your doctor.
WARNING: 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.

Exams and Tests and Medical Treatment

A doctor or dentist can determine by physical examination if you have a drainable abscess. X-rays of the teeth may be necessary to show small abscesses that are at the deepest part of the tooth. Signs observed by the doctor, including nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, or diarrhea, may indicate that the infection has progressed to the point where it is making your whole body sick.

The doctor may decide to cut open the abscess and allow the pus to drain. Unless the abscess ruptures on its own, this is the only way that the infection can be cured. People with tooth abscesses are typically prescribed pain relievers and, at the discretion of the doctor, antibiotics to fight the infection. An abscess that has extended to the floor of the mouth or to the neck may need to be drained in the operating room under anesthesia.


Self-Care at Home

  • People who have cavities or toothaches can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), as needed for relief of pain and inflammation.
  • If an abscess ruptures by itself, warm water rinses will help cleanse the mouth and encourage drainage.


With dental abscess, as with each and every illness, comply with your doctor's instructions for follow-up care. Proper treatment often means reassessment, multiple visits, or referral to a specialist. Cooperate with your doctors by following instructions carefully to ensure the best possible health for you and your family.


Prevention plays a major role in maintaining good dental health. Daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental checkups can prevent tooth decay and dental abscess.

  • Remember to brush and floss after every meal and at bedtime.
  • If tooth decay is discovered early and treated promptly, cavities that could develop into abscesses can usually be corrected.
  • Avoidance of cigarette smoking and excess alcohol consumption can help too.


The prognosis is good for resolution of a small dental abscess, once it has ruptured or been drained. If the symptoms are improving, it is unlikely that the infection is getting worse. Proper follow-up care with your dentist is mandatory for reassessment of your infection and for taking care of the problem tooth.
  • Care might include pulling the tooth or having a root canal performed on it.
  • Dental abscesses that have extended to the floor of the mouth or to the neck can threaten a person's airway and ability to breathe and may be life-threatening unless they are properly drained.
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Looking forward to hearing from you

Aleksandr V. Melekhin, DDS


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