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Everyone at the office is very friendly and helpful, and the technicians are great. I feel like Westerville Dental is very much on top of the latest screening and monitoring techniques, and I really appreciate the thoroughness of the appointments in terms of measuring gum health as well as tooth health. I chose this place when I moved down here based on the good reviews, and I haven't been disappointed.
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A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that builds up inside your tooth. This pus can develop in different parts of a tooth for different reasons. Tooth abscesses are often painful, and they can cause other symptoms.
Bacterial infections are the root cause of tooth abscesses. There are more than 20 billion bacteria, including 500 to 650 different species, living in your mouth. These bacteria can combine with food and saliva to create plaque, a clear sticky film that sticks to your teeth. Unless you remove it with frequent brushing and flossing, this plaque can damage your teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque can spread inside the soft tissue of your teeth and gums, eventually resulting in an abscess. Typically, this infection starts in the soft pulp at the center of your tooth.
Types of Abscesses Affecting Your Gums and Teeth
There are three main types of abscesses affecting teeth and gums: gingival, periodontal, and periapical. A gingival abscess affects only your gums. More specifically, a gingival abscess is an infection of the marginal gingiva, which is the part that surrounds each tooth like a collar. A periodontal abscess affects the tissues of the periodontal pocket, which is the small spaces that surround your teeth under your gum line.
A periapical abscess starts at the tip of the root, deep within the tooth socket in the jaw. This type of infection usually develops when bacteria invade the dental pulp, which is the innermost part of the tooth. The dental pulp contains the blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue that keeps the tooth healthy. Bacteria can enter the dental pulp through a cavity, chip, or crack in the tooth; bacteria can also enter the tooth after an injury to the tooth or from old dental work. Once inside the tooth, the infection can spread down into the tip of the root to cause swelling and inflammation there.
Your body responds to the presence of bacteria by increasing blood flow to the affected area, and by sending in immune system cells that attack and destroy the bacteria. The increased blood flow causes localized inflammation and swelling. The action of the immune system cells creates pus, which is a mixture of dead tissue, cells, and bacteria.
Treatment for tooth abscesses involves draining the pus to rid the tissue of the infected material. In some cases, dentists can save the tooth by performing root canal treatment, which involves removing the infected material from the pulp of the tooth and protecting the tooth from further infections. In other cases, though, dentists must pull the infected tooth to prevent the spread of infection or serious complications.
Signs and Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess
A tooth abscess causes specific signs and symptoms, which include:
- Persistent, severe, throbbing toothache with pain that may radiate (spread) to your jawbone, ear or neck
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Bad breath
- Tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food, beverages, or air
- Sensitivity to the pressure of biting or chewing
- Swelling in your cheek or face
- Swollen or tender lymph nodes in your neck or under your jaw
- A sudden gush of bad-tasting, foul-smelling salty fluid in your mouth, often accompanied by pain relief, which may occur if the abscess ruptures
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
If you experience sensitivity or pain in one tooth, see your dentist as soon as possible. Fever and swelling in your face can indicate a severe infection – if you cannot reach your dentist, go to an emergency room. You should head straight for the emergency department if you have difficulty breathing or swallowing. Fever, swelling, and difficulty breathing or swallowing may indicate that the infection has spread from your tooth deeper into your jaw, surrounding tissue, or to other areas of your body.
Risk Factors for Tooth Abscesses
Certain factors can increase your risk for developing a tooth abscess. These risk factors include:
Poor dental hygiene – Proper dental hygiene includes brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing once daily; poor dental hygiene can increase your risk of risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and other dental and mouth complications that can lead to tooth abscess
A diet high in sugar – Eating and drinking sugary foods and beverages, such as candy and soda, can contribute to dental cavities that can potentially cause a tooth abscess
Dry mouth – Saliva helps protect your teeth and gums from the bacteria that causes tooth abscesses; dry mouth, often associated with aging or the use of certain medications, can increase the risk of tooth decay that leads to tooth abscesses
For more information about tooth abscesses, contact the team at Westerville Dental Associates. Our team of dentists in Westerville, OH, have nearly 100 years of combined experience between them; we have the tools and experience needed to diagnose, treat, and even prevent tooth abscesses. We also provide a wide variety of other dental services, including preventative dentistry, restorative dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, emergency dentistry, sedation dentistry, and specialized treatments.