An abscess is a collection of pus in the body tissues, which often leads to swelling and inflammation. Caused by bacteria, abscesses frequently develop in and around skin wounds. However, they can also occur within the gums at the base of the tooth roots. Since an abscess in the tooth cannot usually be visually detected, the issue often goes unaddressed until it causes pain severe enough to prompt the patient to see his or her dentist.
Tooth abscesses are treatable, but if left untreated for an extended period of time, they can cause severe consequences such as a fever and general malaise. Occasionally, infections that begin in an abscessed tooth may spread through the rest of the body, sometimes even leading to death. The infamous Egyptian ruler, King Tut, is speculated to have died of a tooth infection. You can prevent yourself from going the way of King Tut by learning the symptoms of a tooth abscess and seeking early treatment if you think you may be suffering from one.
How a Tooth Abscess Develops
An abscess begins when the pulp, which is the soft tissue found inside the root of the tooth, becomes infected. Often, this infection results from tooth decay that has been allowed to progress untreated for several months or years. Decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth, so when these bacteria erode away enough of the tooth that they are able to reach the tooth's pulp, they then quickly multiple, leading to a full-blown tooth infection. Sometimes, a tooth infection is not caused directly by tooth decay, but rather by chipping a tooth or losing a filling. Thus, it's important to have issues like these treated by a dentist promptly to prevent infections from developing.
Once the infection has developed inside the tooth root, the bacteria can eat through the base of the tooth root, causing the infection to spread into the gum tissue surrounding the tooth. At this point, the condition has developed into a full-blown abscess.
Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth
All patients should be on the lookout for symptoms of a tooth abscess, since this condition sometimes occurs without warning. However, those who have not visited the dentist for several years or have recently chipped a tooth or filling should be especially vigilant in watching for these signs:
Treating a Tooth Abscess
If you think you may have an abscessed tooth, you should call your dentist immediately. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, he or she may want to see you for an emergency appointment, or may determine that you can wait a day or two before visiting. Your dentist will likely use x-rays to confirm the diagnosis of a tooth abscess and visualize the extent of the damage.
Once you have been properly diagnosed, your dentist will likely prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection in your tooth and gums. Your pain will likely subside soon after you begin taking the antibiotics, but other pain killers may be prescribed if your pain is severe.
In most cases, abscessed teeth can be saved through a root canal procedure, in which the infected tooth pulp is removed and the roots of your tooth are stuffed with a special rubberized material. Contrary to popular belief, root canals are not typically painful. You'll be given a numbing agent prior to the procedure, and since the infected pulp is removed during the root canal, you'll likely find that you're far more comfortable afterwards.
Once your dentist has performed a root canal, the treated tooth is generally capped. If you care for it properly with regular brushing and flossing, you'll likely have it for the rest of your life.
Abscessed teeth are quite common, and millions of Americans are treated for this problem each year. Severe consequences are unlikely if you act quickly upon developing the condition, but ignore an abscess, and you could be in for a lot of pain.
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10 February 2015
I was always very healthy throughout my childhood, but when I became a teenager, I was diagnosed with a chronic illness. Thankfully, I had the support of my loving family to help keep me upbeat during a time that could have led to me experiencing the depression that some do after they first learn they will have an illness for life. I am very grateful for the advice I have gotten throughout my life, so I decided to create a blog where I can share all of the advice that has helped me live a happy, healthy life, despite having a chronic illness. Since I am on a medication that suppresses my immune system, I have also studied up on many other illnesses and tips for avoiding them and treating them. I plan to post health tips for people of a variety of ages and suffering with various illnesses!