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Your Oral Health

Tooth Troubles

Abscessed Teeth

Have a major toothache with throbbing pain and not sure what is causing it? It could be an abscessed tooth.

You may be asking yourself, "What is an abscessed tooth?" It is an infected tooth, usually caused by severe tooth decay. The infection can happen either at the root of the tooth or between the gums and the tooth. This infection is usually in the form of a pus-filled sac.

An abscess at the root can also be caused by injury to a tooth, such as a major blow to the tooth or jaw. An abscess between a tooth and gum usually happens when bacteria and food become trapped in an area that is hard to clean.

When decay reaches the inside or pulp of a tooth, which contains the nerves and blood supply, the pulp dies. The infection in the pulp spreads from the tip of the root to the surrounding bone.

Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth:

How Does Your Dentist Tell if You Have an Abscessed Tooth?

To determine if you have a dental abscess, your dentist will examine your teeth and usually take X-rays to check for any disease.

The dentist may use ice or an electric tester to check the health of a tooth. Also, a probe may be used to tell if an infected pocket has formed in your gums. If an abscess exists, the probe may release some of the pressure from built-up infection, but the pocket will have to be fully cleaned out to remove pus and debris.

This kind of abscess is usually treated by first draining the infection and then thoroughly cleaning the area. The dentist then smoothes out the root surfaces of the tooth to promote healing and to help keep the infection from recurring. Before doing this procedure, your dentist may inject a local anaesthetic to numb the gum and tooth.

If an abscess is at the root of a tooth, root canal therapy is usually recommended. A general dentist or an endodontist (a specialist in this therapy) may perform a root canal.

Don't Ignore an Abscess

The symptoms and effects from an abscessed root will not go away until it is treated. An infection that spreads from the tip of the root builds up pressure and destroys the surrounding bone. This destruction continues until the pressure is released by root canal therapy, or until the infection destroys enough bone so that it can drain out near the tooth, creating a gumboil on the tissue.

An abscess between the gums and a tooth will normally heal soon after the abscess has been drained and the root surfaces cleaned. However, the abscess may recur if the area is not kept clean. Your dentist may recommend the use of special tools to make cleaning these areas easier.

Prevention is the Best Course

The best way to prevent an abscess is to visit your dentist twice a year. At these appointments, your dentist will examine your teeth and mouth and check for any decay between the teeth and evaluate the health of your entire mouth.