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.

Common oral symptoms of a tooth abscess

Symptoms of a tooth abscess may worsen over time, resolve on their own, or come and go. At times, any of these tooth abscess symptoms can be severe. Symptoms may be localized to the mouth or involve the entire body. Common oral symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Draining pus from a tooth
  • Pain when biting, chewing, or clenching the teeth
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
  • Swelling of the tissues surrounding the tooth, including the jaw
  • Toothache
  • Trismus (inability to fully open mouth)

Other symptoms of a tooth abscess

Other symptoms of a tooth abscess may have widespread effects on your body. These can include:

  • Earache
  • Fever
  • Malaise
  • Nausea
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes of the neck
  • Vomiting

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

In most cases, a tooth abscess is not a serious condition. In rare cases, a tooth abscess left untreated can cause a life-threatening infection. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have any of these serious symptoms including:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Fever and chills
  • Nausea, which may be described as feelings of wooziness, queasiness, retching, sea-sickness, car-sickness, or an upset stomach
  • Severe swelling of the jaw
  • Vomiting


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 un... Read more about tooth abscessintroduction


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.
Read more about tooth abscesscauses


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.

Medications for treatment of a tooth abscess

An abscess is typically treated with antibiotics to fight the bacteria causing the infectio... Read more about tooth abscesstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 20, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health