When our bodies are fighting a bacterial infection, it is quite common to find the associated fluids of the infection within a balloon-like structure. A dental abscess occurs when a bacterial infection in the mouth is growing and produces a large pimple-like pustule, containing the pus associated with the infection. Dental abscesses can look like whiteheads on the gums, or in some cases, they are not visible from the outside. In these cases, the dental abscess is likely weeping out the side of the gum pocket or it is localized at the bottom of the tooth root.
How Do Abscesses Occur?
Dental abscesses are most commonly the result of an infection within the tooth or in the gingival tissue of the oral cavity. When bacteria in the oral cavity is uncontrolled it can result in many oral health challenges including gingivitis, periodontitis, and abscess. Abscesses can also be the result of a tooth break or a failed root canal.
When infectious bacteria are present in the mouth and gain access to the roots of the teeth or the inner pulp of the teeth via dental decay, dental abscesses can result as the body’s immune system begins producing excessive amounts of white blood cells to combat the infection. As these infection balloons grow, the balloons displace other soft tissue or can move into the bony structures of the teeth. This results in the risk of the infection traveling to other areas of the mouth. Abscesses can result in the necessary extraction of a tooth if the infection has effectively killed the inner pulp of the tooth and the associated nerve.
Kinds of Dental Abscess
There are five primary kinds of dental abscesses. A periapical abscess occurs in the root of the tooth. a periodontal abscess occurs within the periodontal pocket between the gum tissue and the tooth. A gingival abscess occurs where only the gums are affected and not the tooth itself. Pericoronal abscesses occur when the gum tissues around the tooth become infected, and finally, a combined periodontic-endodontic abscess occurs both within and around the tooth.
Symptoms Associated with Dental Abscess
Dental abscesses are typically associated with extreme amounts of pain in the area of the mouth associated with the abscess. This pain can be sharp and persistent or can build over time. Swelling of the gums or the area of the mouth associated with the abscess is common, although facial swelling can also be seen in some circumstances. Lymph nodes around the lower mandible can also be affected and become swollen as a result. Foul tastes emanating from the source of the infection indicates that the infection is actively draining into the mouth.
It is helpful to note that dental abscesses do not spontaneously resolve. occasionally, dental abscesses can peak in their pain, and end abruptly. Rather than delay seeing a dentist if you think this is resolved, you should consider the more likely possibility that an interdental abscess has killed the tooth and the associated nerve, resulting in an absence of pain. It is critical to have abscesses treated as soon as possible regardless of whether or not the pain has resolved in order to prevent the infection from moving into the surrounding tissues and potentially becoming a systemic health concern.
Treatment of Dental Abscess
If your dentist determines that your tooth can be salvaged, it will likely require a root canal to resolve the infection. A root canal will clean the inside of the tooth and ensure that decay and signs of infection are removed before replacing the inner tissue of the tooth with gutta-percha and capping it to reinforce its structure. In cases in which the infection has progressed to a degree that makes the tooth unsalvageable, the tooth will require extraction. Regardless of the treatment of choice, it is common that antibiotics be prescribed simultaneously with the treatments to ensure that the infection is resolved. In some cases, drainage will be provided by your dentist with an incision being made into the gingival tissue to allow the pus to drain from the abscess. While this can sound painful, most clients feel a great degree of relief once the pressure from inside the abscess cavity is relieved.
A Note on Home Treatment
Because a dental abscess occurs within the structures of the mouth and produces a large amount of pressure within the soft tissues, it is critical to note that while over-the-counter medications can be taken to dull the associated pain, heat should never be applied to an abscess. Heating an abscess can increase the pressure within the tissues and increase the associated pain. Ice packs can be applied to the outside of the mouth or cool water can be rinsed through the mouth if it is tolerable.
Preventing Dental Abscess
Dental abscesses are preventable with excellent oral hygiene and regular visits to your dentist. With regular brushing flossing and rinsing, bacterial counts in the mouth are kept at reasonable levels, and complications such as decay, gingivitis, and periodontitis are kept at a minimum. Periodontitis and decay are one of the most common risk factors in dental abscesses, therefore mitigating the likelihood of their occurrence is critical.
For questions about dental abscesses in Edmonton or other services offered by our general dentists, contact us at Viva Dental Wellness today.