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Could your toothache be an abscessed tooth?

A toothache can make life miserable, and treatment will depend on what’s causing the pain. In some cases, a toothache results from a cavity or a fractured tooth. However, a toothache could indicate a dental abscess in more severe scenarios.

What is an abscessed tooth?

When there is an oral bacterial infection, it leads to an abscess. Patients with an abscess may notice an inflamed pocket of pus around the affected tooth. The abscess is usually extremely painful, making it difficult to chew, talk, or brush your teeth.

There are three main types of infections that can result in a tooth abscess:

  • Gingival: Although this particular infection is limited to the gums, it may still present with a toothache and abscess.
  • Periapical: The inside of a tooth contains sensitive nerves and blood vessels known as the pulp. A periapical abscess results when the infection in the pulp spreads to the tip of the tooth’s root.
  • Periodontal: Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is an active infection in the gum tissue. If left untreated, this infection can result in a periodontal abscess.

When is it time to seek medical attention?

A dental abscess will not go away on its own, so seek immediate treatment if you suspect dental abscesses. Here are some signs that it’s time to call a dentist:

  • Sharp or throbbing pain in the gums, jawbone, neck, or ear
  • Swelling of the face, jaw, or neck
  • Extreme tooth sensitivity
  • A foul taste in the mouth or bad breath
  • Fever

How is a dental abscess treated?

First, a dentist will confirm that you have an infection by examining your mouth. To determine the extent of the infection, they may recommend an x-ray, CT scan, or thermal test.

Once they know the extent of the infection, the dentist will begin treating the abscessed tooth. Treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics such as penicillin and amoxicillin will prevent the infection from spreading, but they do not treat the underlying problem.
  • Drain the abscess: A dentist will make a small incision in the gums to drain abscessed teeth. Although this relieves the pain, it is only a temporary solution. The root cause of the infection must still be treated to nip the problem in the bud.
  • Root canal treatment: If an infection in the pulp is causing the dental abscess, then a dentist will perform a root canal. A root canal involves a dentist removing the infected pulp and saving the tooth from extraction.
  • Tooth extraction: If the infection has spread too far and a dentist cannot save the tooth, he or she will extract it. Removing the tooth prevents further damage to the nerves, soft tissue, and jawbone.

Is it important to treat a tooth abscess?

Treating an affected tooth is crucial to your oral and overall health. Developing dental abscesses can lead to a weakened immune system.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, an untreated abscess can spread the infection to the heart or brain.  When an abscess ruptures, it can lead to sepsis throughout the body.

If you think you have a dental abscess, don’t delay–contact a skilled dentist immediately.

Treat Your Abscessed Tooth in Rio Rancho, NM

At Rio Rancho Smiles Family Dental, we are committed to keeping our patients healthy. We provide our patients with comprehensive oral healthcare aimed at preventing illness and disease. If you want more information about what we can do for you, call us at (505) 994-9693 or contact us online.


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