What is a Dental Abscess?

The term “dental abscess” usually refers to an infection of the gum tissue, but occasionally it refers to a pulpitis, which is an infection in the root canal system. An abscess may potentially occur in any part of the oral cavity. It can cause severe pain, discomfort, and an accumulation of pus around the teeth or other parts of the mouth as a result of an infection.

What Causes a Dental Abscess?

The most common causes of dental abscesses are teeth that have been improperly cleaned or infected teeth, which have not received treatment. A dental abscess is also more likely to develop following a tooth extraction. Other possible causes of dental abscesses include trauma to the teeth including biting down on hard candy, chewing gum, or smoking cigarettes. Taking certain medications such as high-dose aspirin can cause an inflammatory reaction which can result in a tooth becoming infected by bacteria and could lead to a dental abscess. Some people may be genetically predisposed while others are more vulnerable to developing dental abscesses due to their health conditions such as diabetes mellitus or HIV/AIDS.

Common Symptoms of a Dental Abscess

Common symptoms of a dental abscess include severe pain, swelling of the gums or jaw, redness of the area around the infection, bad breath and taste in your mouth, and fever. Other signs of an abscessed tooth can include sensitivity to cold or hot food and drinks as well as pain when chewing. In some cases, a root canal infection can also lead to a dental abscess.

If left untreated, a dental abscess can cause complications such as facial cellulitis or osteomyelitis. Other complications could potentially include sepsis or an infection in the bloodstream.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment from your dentist is essential to prevent further and more complications.

Diagnosing and Treating a Dental Abscess

Diagnosing and treating a dental abscess requires an examination by a dentist or other healthcare professional. It typically involves a physical examination, x-rays, and laboratory tests.

Different Types of Dental Abscesses

There are three main types of dental abscesses: periapical abscess, periodontal abscess, and gingival abscess.  Each one has its own unique symptoms, causes, and treatments.

  1. A periapical abscess is a dental condition that can be caused by an infection in the root of a tooth. It is characterized by a painful swelling near the apex of the affected tooth and may be accompanied by fever, headache, and other signs of infection. The abscess can often lead to severe pain, tooth loss, and even systemic infections if left untreated. Treatment usually involves draining the abscess and treating the underlying cause with antibiotics.
  2. A periodontal abscess is an infection of the gum tissue that can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor oral hygiene, trauma, or other dental issues. Symptoms of a periodontal abscess include pain and swelling in the gums, foul taste in the mouth, and bad breath. Treatment for a periodontal abscess typically involves antibiotics and drainage of pus from the affected area. In some cases, surgery may be required to remove any damaged tissue or bone. Good oral hygiene practices can help prevent periodontal abscesses from developing.
  3. A gingival abscess is an accumulation of pus in the gums caused by a bacterial infection. It is a painful condition that can cause swelling, redness, and tenderness in the affected area. The most common cause of a gingival abscess is poor oral hygiene, but other factors such as trauma or gum disease can also lead to an abscess. Treatment usually involves antibiotics and surgical drainage of the pus. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the infected tissue or to repair any damage caused by the infection.

What Are the Long-Term Effects of an Untreated Dental Abscess?

The long-term effects of an untreated dental abscess can include tooth loss, bone loss, jawbone damage, and facial deformity. Additionally, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and cause systemic health problems such as fever, fatigue, and sepsis. Proper diagnosis and treatment are essential for preventing these long-term effects from occurring.

Preventing Future Dental Abscesses with Good Oral Hygiene Practices

Good oral hygiene practices are essential for preventing future dental abscesses. By brushing and flossing regularly, using an antiseptic mouthwash, and visiting your dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings, you can reduce your risk of developing a dental abscess. Additionally, avoiding sugary foods and drinks can help protect your teeth from decay which is a common cause of dental abscesses. It is also important to be aware of any underlying medical conditions that may increase the risk of developing an abscess.

Taking these steps can help ensure that you maintain good oral health now and in the future.

Reach out to the professionals at Lee Family Dentistry today by calling 301-662-0300 to learn more about how you can prevent or treat a dental abscess.

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