Tooth Abscess Treatment
A dental abscess is always a serious condition because the infection may spread to other parts of the body. Left untreated, an abscess may compromise the immune system and in some cases may become life-threatening.
It's strongly advised to begin the tooth abscess treatment as soon as possible because a smaller abscess is much easier to treat.
Tooth Abscess Pain Relief & Treatment
The type of treatment for a tooth abscess depends on the severity and extent of the infection. While tooth extraction remains an option, it is not the only one as it was until some decades ago. The dentist will always try to save the tooth with endodontic treatment before deciding a tooth extraction.
The goals of tooth abscess treatment are first to relieve the patient from pain, followed by the elimination of the infection and the restoration of the tooth (if possible). The treatment of dental abscesses is performed by a dentist or endodontist and it may require several dental visits.
The dentist will prescribe antibiotics for a few days before starting the treatment of the tooth abscess, especially if there is extensive swelling. However, an antibiotic will not clear the pus or eliminate the infection until the pus is drained. Antibiotics use for a few days after draining the pus could also help to clear any remaining infection.
Pus drainage releases the pressure from the tissues around the tooth abscess, providing a significant relief from the acute pain. Draining the abscess is the first step of the tooth abscess treatment. It can be done either through an opening made through the top of the tooth in case of a periapical abscess or through an incision to the gums in case of a periodontal abscess.
If you can not visit the dentist immediately, you can try the following for temporary pain relief:
- Put an ice pack outside the cheek to relieve pain and reduce facial inflammation.
- Take an over the counter painkiller to help withstand the pain.
- Rinse the mouth with a warm saltwater solution to help clean the mouth, encourage drainage and relieve some of the pain. This is also suggested for several times a day for a few days after treatment of a dental abscess (especially for gum abscesses).
Root canal treatment
Performing a root canal therapy (endodontic treatment) can in most cases clear the infection and preserve the tooth. The procedure involves the removal of bacteria and infected tissues from the pulp chamber and the root canals. The tooth is then sealed and restored with a filling or crown. Root canal treatment saves many abcessed teeth that would otherwise need to be extracted. It is the most common and effective treatment of dental abscess.
A tooth extraction becomes necessary when the tooth is badly damaged and it can not be saved with a root canal treatment. Modern dentistry considers tooth extraction only as a last option and not as an alternative of root canal treatment. An extracted tooth due to tooth abscess should be replaced with a dental bridge or a dental implant, increasing the overall cost of the treatment. Keeping your natural teeth as long as possible is nearly always the best course of action.
Abscess Tooth Complications
A tooth abscess if detected promptly is usually curable with proper treatment. The tooth can be saved with root canal treatment if its structure is not badly damaged. In some cases, when the tooth infection causes little or no pain, people ignore it and wait for it to go away. If the pus is not drained and the infection is left untreated, serious complications may develop.
A tooth abscess can cause serious health conditions, that in some severe cases may become life threatening. The most common complications of tooth abscesses include:
- Tooth loss
- Spread of infection to soft tissue (facial cellulitis)
- Spread of infection to the jaw bone (osteomyelitis of the mandible or maxilla)
- Sinusitis - spread of infection from the roots of upper molars to the sinus cavities.
- Spread of infection to other areas of the body resulting in Cavernous sinus thrombosis (swelling and blood clotting in the veins behind the eyes), endocarditis, pneumonia, or other disorders
- Dental abscesses that have extended to the floor of the mouth or to the neck (Ludwig's angina) can become life-threatening, blocking the airway and causing difficulty breathing.
- Dental cysts in the jaw bones that have to be removed surgically.
Tooth abcess symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea, are indications of severe tooth abscess complications; see your doctor immediately. In the years before WWII and the discovery of penicillin, it was not uncommon for patients to die from complications of tooth infections.
Abscess Tooth Prevention
Dental abscesses are common in people with poor dental health and result from lack of proper and timely dental care. The best way to prevent dental abscesses is by following good oral hygiene practices along with regular dental cleanings.
- Following a proper daily oral hygiene routine by regular teeth brushing and flossing will remove dental plaque that causes tooth decay (main cause of a tooth abscess) and gum disease (main cause of a gum abscess).
- Dental cleanings also help to prevent dental abscesses by removing the build-up of dental tartar from teeth and reducing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.
- Protect your teeth from injuries as they could potentially lead to tooth infections (wear mouthguards during sport activities, stop teeth grinding etc). Do not leave a cracked or chipped tooth untreated.
The cost of dental treatments can be significant and many patients may not afford it if they are not covered by their dental insurance. Learn how to choose a dental insurance plan that will provide the best dental treatment to you and your family.