Table of Contents
- What is an abscessed tooth?
- What are risk factors for an abscessed tooth?
- What causes an abscessed tooth?
- What are the signs and symptoms of an abscessed tooth?
- How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for an abscessed tooth?
- Are home remedies effective for an abscessed tooth?
- What specialists treat an abscessed tooth?
- What is the prognosis for an abscessed tooth?
- What are complications of an abscessed tooth?
- Can an abscessed tooth be prevented?
What are the signs and symptoms of an abscessed tooth?
- The tooth turns dark in color compared to surrounding teeth. The byproducts of the necrotic pulp that leach into the porous tooth layer cause this discoloration. In many cases, there may be no pain present.
- There is pain with eating or with pressing on the tooth. The abscess that has spread out the root tip causes the supporting structures (gum and bone) to be affected. Sometimes the throbbing or pulsating pain is so severe it can't be relieved with pain medications. This is usually related to the infection spreading and causing more pressure on the surrounding structures of gum and bone.
- There is swelling on the gum that is filled with pus. The raised swelling looks like a pimple near the affected tooth. An open pimple is called a "draining fistula" and has ruptured to release pus. This is an obvious sign of infection. Other signs of a tooth abscess are a bad taste or bad odor in the mouth.
- Swelling of the face, jaw, or surrounding lymph nodes often signals a growing infection. Jaw pain from the swelling can be present, as well.
It is also important to note that an abscessed tooth may not have any symptoms at all. Because the tooth has lost vitality (or the ability to feel stimuli), there may be no pain associated with it. However, the abscess is still present and could be further spreading the infection. On occasion, an abscessed tooth is detected during a routine radiographic (X-ray) exam where the patient has not experienced any telltale symptoms of an abscessed tooth.
How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?
A primary care provider or pediatrician can assess the signs and symptoms to determine if a dental abscess is present. They can then refer the patient to a dental provider for diagnosis and treatment. Diagnosis of a tooth abscess is collectively determined by (1) signs and symptoms reported by the patient, (2) exam and tests that are performed by the dentist, and (3) what is visualized with dental radiographs (X-rays).
Bertossi, Dario, et al. "Odontogenic Orofacial Infections." Journal of Craniofacial Surgery 28.1 (2017): 197-202.
Burns, Richard C. and Stephen Cohen (Eds.). Pathways of the Pulp, 2nd ed. St. Louis, MO: The C.V. Mosby Company, 1980. IMAGES: