What is a tooth abscess?
A tooth abscess is a bacterial infection inside a tooth. The infection leads to a buildup of pus inside the center of the tooth, and it can be very painful. The infection can originate as a result of poor dental hygiene or injury to the tooth, which allows bacteria to penetrate deep inside.
A tooth abscess can be a serious condition because the infection, particularly when left untreated, may spread and cause complications elsewhere in the body. The infection can extend directly into adjacent tissues or spread through the bloodstream and cause serious infections of the jaw, brain, heart or lungs. Therefore, a tooth abscess should be immediately treated by a dentist.
Tooth abscesses are typically treated with antibiotics. Depending on the extent of the infection, a root canal or other dental work may also be performed.
Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience symptoms indicating a severe or spreading infection, such as painful swelling of the jaw, difficulty breathing, vomiting, fever, or nausea associated with a tooth abscess.
Seek prompt medical care if you think you may have a tooth abscess, as timely treatment may prevent more serious complications.
What are the symptoms of a tooth abscess?
Symptoms of a tooth abscess include toothache, as well as pain and swelling around the infected tooth. Left untreated, a tooth abscess can infect the surrounding tissue, including the jawbone, or cause a serious systemic (body-wide) infection that may lead to fever, chills, nausea and vomiting.
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What causes a tooth abscess?
A tooth abscess is caused by bacteria that infect the inside of a tooth. Poor dental hygiene, which leads to dental caries (cavities) or periodontal disease (gum disease), is the most common cause of a tooth abscess. A tooth abscess can also result from bacteria invading tissue in the mouth after dental work or other causes of injury to the teeth, such as chipping and breaking of the teeth.
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How is a tooth abscess treated?
Treatment of a tooth abscess begins with seeking care from your dentist. A tooth abscess can usually be diagnosed by a simple examination by your dentist. An X-ray may be helpful in identifying the extent and location of the infection.