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Tooth abscess: causes, symptoms, and treatment

A tooth abscess is usually a complication of a dental infection. Bacteria from plaque can infect your teeth through the holes caused by tooth decay. When this happens, the bacteria will infect your teeth’s pulp or gums and eventually result in an abscess.

Three types of tooth abscess

  1. Gingival abscess
  2. Periodontal abscess
  3. Periapical abscess


A tooth abscess is typically the result of a dental infection caused by bacteria in plaque. The bacteria will infect your tooth and gums, causing the abscess.


  • Pain in the affected portion
  • Sensitivity to cold or hot foods and drinks
  • Bad breath
  • Low-grade fever
  • Body malaise and a feeling of illness
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty with opening your mouth


A person exhibiting symptoms of tooth abscess should see their dentist immediately. If the patient has difficulty swallowing or closing and opening their mouth, they should go to the ER immediately.

The treatment options for a tooth abscess are the following:

Pain Management

The patient can take over-the-counter pain medication to help relieve the pain while awaiting treatment. Typical painkillers include aspirin, ibuprofen, paracetamol, and mefenamic acid.


In some cases, the patient will need to undergo surgery. The abscess must first be cut out, and the pus will then be drained away. The patient will be under local anesthesia.   If the patient has a periapical abscess, a root canal treatment will be performed to remove the abscess. For a periodontal abscess, the pocket will be cleaned and the abscess will be drained. This will help the tooth heal and stop further infections from recurring.   For recurring infections, some patients will need to have their gum tissue reshaped and have their periodontal pocket removed. If the tooth abscess recurs, the tooth may even need to be extracted.

Treatment by the Patient

The patient can avoid hot and cold food and drinks, avoid chewing on the side with the abscess and use a very soft toothbrush.


Antibiotics are typically prescribed to prevent further infection.

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