Understanding the types and symptoms of dental abscesses is important so you can recognize them quickly and get treated as soon as possible. Here is some information about dental abscesses so you can be prepared in case you ever face this problem.
Dental Abscess Types
Dental abscesses arise from bacterial infections of the teeth and gums. Abscesses are classified depending on where this infection originated. Abscesses that were caused by infections in the pulp of the tooth are known as periapical abscesses. These are common abscesses that can occur after cavities or a failed root canal give bacteria in your mouth access to the tooth pulp.
Like tooth pulp, the tissues surrounding your teeth can suffer from abscess-causing bacterial infections. Common infection sites include the periodontal ligament, which anchors your tooth to the jawbone, and the cementum, the surface of the roots of your teeth. Abscess which arise from infections in these areas are known as periodontal abscesses. Because these abscesses do not kill the pulp of the tooth, the affected tooth is usually easier to save.
Symptoms of Dental Abscesses
It is unlikely that a dental abscess will go unnoticed for long. Sudden, intense pain that is localized to the affected tooth is one of the earliest signs. If the abscess is left untreated, this pain can eventually spread to the jawbone, ear, and neck. Heat, cold, and pressure can all exacerbate this pain, making it difficult to eat and drink.
Some abscesses come with other symptoms such as a foul taste in the mouth and bad breath. As the infection from the abscess spreads, full-body aches and pains and high fevers can develop.
Pain Management at Home
If you aren't able to see your dentist as soon as you become aware that you have a dental abscess, you will need to know some methods to manage the pain at home. There are a few home remedies that can help you deal with the pain until you can get professional treatment.
Over-the-counter pain medicine is one option, but its effectiveness is often limited. Instead, you may be more comfortable if you use more direct methods to soothe your tooth. A warm salt water rinse can reduce pain while also rinsing out some of the bacteria and pus from sores around the abscess. You can also try applying clove oil or topical ointment to the tooth to dull pain and decrease sensitivity.
Dental Abscess Treatment
When you visit your dentist with a dental abscess, the treatment method will differ depending on the type of abscess you have. With both types, a local anesthetic is used first to numb the area. For a periapical abscess, or tooth pulp abscess, the dentist will drain pus and remove dead pulp tissue by performing a root canal. The tooth is then filled with a rubbery material known as gutta-percha that is bacteria-resistant, reducing the chances of a future infection.
Periodontal abscesses must first be drained with a small incision into the affected tissue. When all of the pus has been drained out of the infected pocket, the dentist will scale and plane the tooth root with metal tools to dislodge bacteria that is clinging to the root.
In some cases, your dentist may follow the abscess surgery with a course of antibiotics. Sufficient drainage will often make this unnecessary in all but the most severe cases. If infection recurs after the initial surgery, your dentist will schedule an appointment for you with an oral surgeon to have the affected tooth extracted.
Recognizing the symptoms of a dental abscess and having it treated as soon as possible is the best way to avoid the more serious health problems that this condition can lead to. For more information, contact a local dental clinic like TLC Dental Center.