Abscessed Tooth Symptoms

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Comment by Charles P. Davis, MD, PhD

What is an abscessed tooth?

An abscessed tooth is a tooth adjacent to or surrounded by a pocket of pus caused, in most individuals, by a bacterial infection. Two main types occur; periapical abscesses occur at the root of the tooth while periodontal abscesses occur in the gums next to the tooth.

Abscessed tooth symptoms

The initial symptoms begin with localized swelling and pain that gets progressively worse over a few days. A tender and sore mass (the abscess) may be felt with a finger and gingival bleeding may occur. Periapical abscesses may be very sensitive to cold and heat. The infected person may develop fever and a decreased food and/or fluid intake.

Abscessed tooth complications

Plaque, tooth decay, gingival disease, dental surgery, and other less common problems can lead to tooth abscesses. However, dental work, cavities, and injury are the leading causes of periapical abscesses. Both abscess types can lead to serious complications such as fistulas (pathways to other nearby tissues that become infected), osteomyelitis (bone infection), Ludwig angina (rapidly spreading cellulitis that causes neck and tongue swelling that can rapidly lead to airway compromise and death), and sinus and facial infections.

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