An abscessed tooth can mean significant pain, swelling, fevers, and potential additional health complications. It could be a chronic untreated condition or an acute medical emergency. It’s important that the abscessed tooth is properly treated by a licensed endodontist.
What is an abscessed tooth?
An abscess occurs when pus (caused by an infection) builds up around a body tissue. In the case of an abscessed tooth, the infection has spread from the inner chamber (pulp chamber) to the root tip. When an abscess forms in a tooth, it indicates that the tooth has lost the ability to fight infection. Harmful bacteria have invaded the tooth pulp (a mixture of blood vessels and nerves) and spread out the bottom of the tooth into the gum or jaw bone. The pus characteristic of an abscess is comprised of dead tissue, white blood cells, and bacteria.
Why do abscesses occur?
While an abscess is caused by bacteria, how those bacteria enter the tooth can vary. Tooth trauma, a cavity, and microcracks from grinding can leave your teeth open to infection. Teeth with more dental work have an increased chance of bacteria reaching the nerve. This will eventually lead to the need for a root canal. Perhaps the most common cause of a tooth abscess is the presence of a deep cavity that has reached the pulp chamber.
What does it look and feel like?
Abscesses can appear with a variety of symptoms. Since the nerves in the tooth have been compromised, there may be no initial pain or feeling of the infection. General swelling of the jaw or cheeks can indicate an infection. Lymph nodes may also be affected, causing a dull ache in the jaw and throat.
As the infection grows and the abscess itself begins to form, the tooth may appear darker in color. There will be pain and sensitivity when eating or while clenching your teeth. You may notice a persistent bad taste in your mouth or smell a foul odor on your breath. As the gum and bone at the base of the tooth fills with pus, it will appear as a white-headed, pimple-like structure. The abscess will cause discomfort that is relieved if the abscess ruptures and drains.
How is an abscessed tooth treated?
Treatment for an abscessed tooth depends on how early the infection is recognized. First, the tooth is opened, and the inside is disinfected. Next, the pustule is drained (if needed) to relieve pressure and remove the last of the harmful bacteria. Finally, a root canal is performed to fill the tooth and prevent further infection.
For serious infections affecting the root end and jaw bone, an endodontic surgery called an apicoectomy may be performed to remove the damaged tissue. If the abscess is not treated in a timely manner, the tooth may require extraction. Antibiotics, such as penicillin, do not cure a dental abscess. They help reduce the infection prior to treatment. The abscess will return unless a root canal or extraction is performed.
Why should I see an endodontist for an abscessed tooth?
Endodontists are specialists when it comes to infected teeth and root canals. While a dentist can help identify an abscess, an endodontist is specifically trained to perform the cleaning and disinfection necessary for treatment. The extensive experience of endodontists with root canal therapy means a better procedure and outcome. Endodontic offices are also better equipped to deal with emergency appointments, meaning you get treated right away.
If you have signs and symptoms of an abscessed tooth, don’t delay. Call Central Ohio Endodontics to book your appointment and be on your way to better health today.