How to identify Dental Abscesses

How to identify Dental Abscesses

A dental abscess is a collection of pus and bacteria formed inside the teeth, gums or bone that holds your teeth in place, often caused by bacterial infections. An abscess on your tooth is referred to as a periapical abscess, whereas an abscess in or on your gum is known as a periodontal abscess.

Dental abscesses can be painful but aren’t always. It’s imperative to visit the Dentist if you believe you may have an abscess as they do not go away on their own and can spread diseases to other parts of your body, making you ill. If the infection spreads, you might develop a high temperature; in severe cases you might struggle to fully open your mouth as well as with difficulty swallowing or breathing.

What are the causes?

Your mouth is constantly full of bacteria, which forms a sticky substance on your teeth which we know as plaque. If you do not keep your teeth and gums clean, then acids can be produced by the bacteria in plaque and mouth which leads to tooth decay or gum disease. This increases your likeliness of developing abscesses, as well as these listed below:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Eating/drinking lots of sugary foods/drinks
  • Injury or previous surgery to your teeth or gums
  • Having a weakened immune system – including individuals with health conditions such as diabetes and those having treatment including chemotherapy or steroid medication

What are the symptoms?

  • Intense throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum that may suddenly appear and gradually gets worse
  • Spreading pain to ears, jaw, and neck on the same side
  • Swelling and redness of the face
  • Tender, discoloured teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Shiny red or swollen gums
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold drinks/foods
  • Bad breath
  • Unpleasant tastes in your mouth

Relieving Abscesses

To help relieve the pain or the symptoms of abscesses it’s recommended to take one Ibuprofen tablet, as this is a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory painkiller which is available over the counter without a need for a prescription.

If you’re unable to swallow tablets, Ibuprofen is available in capsules, liquids, gels or creams and as a spray. Paracetamol can also help ease the pain although it isn’t as affective as Ibuprofen.

Instead of taking painkillers, other methods used can be to avoid hot or cold foods and drinks if they make your pain worse. Try eating softer foods on the opposite side of your mouth, you can also try using a soft toothbrush and temporarily flossing around the affected tooth. A final method used to help relieve pain is to rinse your mouth with a salt water solution, this helps draw out puss and relieves pressure.


Abscesses are treated by removing the source of the infection and draining the puss, depending on where your dental abscess is determining what treatment you’d need. Tooth abscesses normally result in extraction of the affected tooth, this is often necessary if root cannel treatment isn’t possible. A root cannel treatment is a procedure to remove an abscess from the roof of an affected tooth before filling and sealing it. Another procedure for treating abscesses may require incision and drainage, where a small cut is made into the gum to drain the abscess and its bacteria.

If you’ve shown some or all the symptoms above, then it’s important you visit your dentist rather than your GP as soon as you can. Speak to us at Mark Tangri Dental on 0333 1234 999.

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