What most people know about having a tooth abscess is that it can be extremely painful. This is because a bacterial infection has caused a pocket of pus to form at the end of the tooth root. An abscess is something that can affect anyone, regardless of age, and it should not be taken lightly. Why? Because it’s an infection that can spread to other areas of your body. In fact, there are much more serious medical conditions associated with having a dental abscess, such as inflammation of the arteries, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Let’s delve deeper into what you should know about having a tooth abscess and answer a few common questions.
Why Do I Have an Abscessed Tooth?
There are many different ways to end up with a dental abscess. Teeth are quite complex. In fact, inside of them is a pulp that actually has connective tissue, nerves and even blood vessels that you can’t see. Infections that occur on the inside of your tooth are often the result of gum disease, cavities or some kind of dental injury. A tooth abscess can actually end up spreading to other teeth, which means you can have several abscessed teeth that originated inside of one tooth. As previously mentioned, the infection can continue to spread to other body parts.
How Do I Know It’s Actually An Abscessed Tooth?
Your first clue that you have an abscessed tooth is likely to be pain and swelling. However, you might also have swollen lymph nodes, a fever, pain in your jaw, problems chewing, a bad taste in your mouth and breathing difficulties. If you have an abscess located on your gum, you might be able to see what looks like a small pimple filled with pus. In fact, if pressure is applied, the liquid inside will seep out.
There are some instances when no symptoms exist and the abscess has to be identified by a dentist. This usually requires an x-ray, but sometimes a visual inspection will reveal an abscess. When there is no pain, it’s usually because the pus in the abscess has been draining, which is also a problem since it’s going into your bloodstream.
What Are Immediate and Long-Term Solutions?
The priority when dealing with an abscess is to identify and eliminate the infection as soon as possible. Given the potential repercussions, it’s wise to see a dentist right away. If you’ve ever had a dentist tap on your teeth, sometimes that’s for the purpose of making sure you don’t have an abscess. That little tap becomes painful when there’s an infection, but otherwise you don’t feel much at all. Once it becomes clear that you have an abscess, your dentist will probably refer you to an endodontist.
When it comes to the plan of care for an abscess, there are many possibilities. More than likely, you will receive antibiotics, especially if it’s believed that the infection has started to spread. Antibiotics can treat the infection, but it won’t eliminate the problem. Which means it might be necessary to get an extraction. There’s a chance that the endodontist can actually save your tooth, but that determination will take place during the exam.
For more severe issues, surgery might be required. This is because sometimes it’s necessary to drain the abscess, which will eliminate the pain. There’s also a chance that you’ll require a root canal, which is a procedure that’s often used to treat a dental abscess. A root canal is when an endodontist actually drills into the tooth to clean out the infection. The hole that was drilled is then filled and sealed. A root canal is often preferred because it enables you to actually save your tooth, which is always a priority.
What Can I Do To Prevent This From Happening Again?
One good thing about having an abscessed tooth is that it will inspire better dental hygiene. Nobody’s perfect and we all fall off the wagon when it comes to dental care. However, to prevent further issues with your teeth, you should absolutely visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings. You should also brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss once a day. When you have food stuck between your teeth, you might not know it’s there, which is why flossing is important.
Don’t forget to use fluoride toothpaste because it helps to prevent cavities. It goes without saying that you should minimize the amount of sugar you consume because sweets are the enemy of healthy teeth. That doesn’t mean you can never eat sweets, just do so in moderation.