Dental emergencies are tooth conditions that require immediate dental attention. Most dental emergencies cause severe pain, while others may be painless. Dental emergencies range from a minor tooth crack to more severe conditions like tooth abscess. A dental abscess is a localized infection that results in the collection of pus around the affected area. An oral abscess could affect the gums and other structures surrounding the tooth. You may have an abscess on your gums or teeth if you experience symptoms like swelling, pain when chewing, and tooth sensitivity.

Your oral health is a significant part of your overall health and wellbeing. A tooth abscess can not only cause tooth loss and pain but could spread to other parts of the body resulting in life-threatening complications. Abscessed teeth are very painful and do not resolve without proper dental treatment. At La Puente Advanced Dentistry, we work hard to ensure that our clients receive the best oral health services. We serve clients requiring emergency dentistry services throughout La Puente, CA.

What is Dental Abscess?

A dental abscess is a buildup of pus that forms inside the gums. A tooth abscess results from an infection caused by bacteria build up in the pulp of your teeth. Bacteria exist in plaque or as a byproduct of food and leftover food particles that remain in your mouth. When plaque is not removed properly, the bacteria spread to the layers of the tooth, which could eventually result in a dental abscess. A dental abscess is a painful condition that could affect the gums, nerves, and bones surrounding the teeth. 

If you experience the symptoms of a dental abscess, you should seek immediate dental care. Early treatment of the condition can help save your tooth and avoid the life-threatening complication that accompanies this condition.

Dental abscesses manifest in acute and chronic forms depending on the site of infection. An oral abscess is categorized into:

Periodontal Abscess

When the pockets of pus form in the gums, the condition is known as a periodontal abscess. The abscess appears as a smooth swelling that protrudes from the gums and is very sensitive when touched. Mostly, periodontal abscess results from periodontal disease. When gum disease becomes severe, the infection could spread through the gums resulting in a dental abscess. When left untreated, a dental, periodontal abscess could cause tooth sensitivity and loosening.

Gingival Abscess

A gingival abscess is a painful lesion which forms between the infected gum and tooth. Mostly, a gum abscess is a result of pressure exerted on the gum by a foreign object. In the initial stage, a gingival abscess appears as a shiny red swelling. After some time, the abscess may become pointed and rupture. It is crucial to visit your dentist even when an abscess ruptures since an oral abscess cannot resolve without treatment.

Periapical Abscess

A Periapical abscess is a pocket of pus that develops at the root of your tooth. When a tooth has a cavity, chip, or crack, bacteria from food particles can make their way to the inner tooth layers causing an infection. The tooth pulp consists of connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves, which provide sensory throughout the tooth. When bacteria moves down to the pulp through the cavities, it could spread to the root causing an abscess.

Dental Abscess Stages

A tooth abscess is a condition that develops over time. The stages of dental abscess are as follows:

  1. Enamel decay. The first stage of oral abscess is damage to the outermost layer of the tooth. Enamel decay is caused by a buildup of tartar and plaque on the tooth. In the enamel decay stage, you could experience symptoms like tooth sensitivity.

  2. Dentin decay. Failure to treat enamel decay causes the infection to progress to the other layers of your tooth. When the dentin is affected, you may experience increased tooth sensitivity. At this stage, a small hole could develop on the tooth, causing more bacteria to enter the inner layers of the tooth.

  3. Pulp decay. The deepest layer of your tooth structure is the pulp. When bacteria reach this layer, they can attract the tooth's nerve, causing severe infection and pain. Severe infection on the nerves causes atrophy, and abscess begins to form.

  4. Abscess formation. Once bacteria damages the nerves in the pulp, they spread deeper into your gums or jaw bone. The gums will begin to swell and form pus-filled bumps. You may experience throbbing pain in your gums, teeth, and surrounding areas at this stage of the oral abscess.

  5. Spread of the Abscess. Failure to treat a tooth abscess may cause the infection to spread to other parts of the body. Some of the most severe complications associated with an oral abscess may include tooth loss and blood infection.

Common Causes of Tooth Abscess

A dental abscess is caused by the same strain of bacteria that causes tooth decay and periodontitis. When food particles are stuck on the tooth, they cause a buildup of bacteria. When the bacteria from leftover food particles enter the tooth pulp, the body will send white blood cells to the area. Accumulation of white blood cells on an infected area forms pockets of puss. Some of the common causes of an oral abscess include:

  1. Untreated Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is the damage of the tooth enamel caused by plaque which turns sugars into acid. Poor oral hygiene causes plaque to build on the tooth and damage the enamel. One of the main reasons why we undergo tooth filling is to avoid dental abscesses. When the bacteria from plaque damage the enamel, it leaves the gum and roots of teeth exposed. When left untreated, the bacteria on the decayed tooth can cause an infection of the gums and result in a tooth abscess. If you have a decayed tooth, having it removed or filled could help prevent the development of a dental abscess.

  1. Gum Disease

Gum disease is an infection of the gums caused by oral bacteria. The infection causes reddening, irritation, and inflammation of the gums. In its early stages, gum disease can be treated through tooth cleaning and good oral hygiene practices. However, in advanced stages, gum disease could cause tooth loss and health complications. When gum disease becomes, severe pockets may form on the gums exposing the tooth roots. This makes it easy for bacteria to enter the inner parts of the tooth and cause an oral abscess. If you treat gum disease promptly, you can reduce the risk of oral abscess. Maintaining proper oral hygiene will help avoid gum disease and dental abscesses.

  1. Cracked teeth

When a tooth cracks, bacteria from the food can make their way through the crack to the gums and tissues, causing an infection. Many people do not notice that their teeth are cracked until a dentist checks them. The delayed pain from the cracked tooth may be a result of the tooth abscess.

  1. Underlying Medical Conditions

Individuals taking medication for other serious health conditions will have a weakened immune system. A weak immune system increases the susceptibility to infections. This is because of your body's inability to fight the bacteria effectively. Some of the conditions that could weaken your immunity include diabetes, HIV, and cancer, among others.

  1. High Sugar Diet

Consumption of sugary and processed foods increases the buildup of tartar and plaque on the teeth. A buildup of bacteria on the enamel is the first stage of tooth decay, gum disease, and dental abscess.

Symptoms of Dental Abscess

The symptoms of dental abscesses differ from one person to another. Also, they may vary depending on the location of the abscess and how far the infection has progressed. Some of the common signs and symptoms associated with this condition include:

  • Swelling, inflammation, and reddening near the infected area
  • Serious toothache. This could include the tooth root, gums, or surrounding areas.
  • Pain which worsens when you lie down and may interrupt your sleep
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks
  • Pain when biting or chewing on food
  • Bad breath that is consistent even when you brush or rinse your mouth. When bacteria builds up on your gums and teeth, it can cause tooth decay characterized by bad breath. Even when you brush your teeth, infected gums may still cause bad breath.
  • Shiny and sensitive bumps around the gums could appear in the initial stages.
  • Loose or multiple loose teeth around the infected area. Since dental abscesses could result from periodontal gum disease, the severe stages of the condition may be characterized by loose or falling out teeth.
  • Difficulty breathing and swallowing. When left untreated, a dental abscess can spread to other parts of the body, causing lung and brain infections.
  • Swelling of the face and neck

Sometimes, a dental abscess may rupture without intervention from a dentist. This could result in a salty taste and foul smell from our teeth. Also, you could experience some pain relief from the rupture. Even when the abscess ruptures, seeking immediate dental care is crucial.

Treatment for Tooth Abscess

A dental abscess that is left untreated could spread to other teeth or even to the bloodstream, which is life-threatening. Seeking prompt dental care can increase the chances of saving your tooth. Your dentist can detect a tooth abscess through a CT scan or an X-ray. The type of treatment approach that your dentist will take for your condition will depend on the location and severity of the abscess. The following are some treatment options for oral abscess:

  1. Draining. If the pus pocket is minor and is located near the gum surface, your dentist can drain it by making an incision in the gum. The dentist could give you a local anesthetic to numb the area before the procedure.

  2. Root canal. When a tooth abscess is severe, your dentist may need to perform a root canal to remove infected tissues. Many people assume that the tooth canal is a painful procedure. However, the pain you experience during this procedure is not much compared to the pain caused by the infected tooth. The root canal helps prevent the spread of the infection and prevent tooth loss.

  3. Antibiotics. Antibiotics like penicillin and amoxicillin are often used to treat a dental abscess. Antibiotics help your body fight off the bacteria that cause an abscess. In addition to the antibiotics, your dentist could offer some pain relief medications to manage the pain from the infection and the dental procedures.

Prevention of Dental Abscess

Dental abscess causes severe pain and discomfort. However, you can reduce the instances of developing this condition by checking the following aspects of your health:

  • Diet. Sugar is one of the main causes of tooth decay. When sugary foods stick on your teeth, they produce toxins that accelerate tooth decay. The presence of tooth decay is a risk factor for developing a tooth abscess. Avoiding starchy and sugary foods can help avoid tooth decay and reduce the instances of developing a tooth abscess.
  • Good oral hygiene. Regular brushing and flossing your teeth are essential in maintaining good oral hygiene. Most dental complications are a result of poor oral hygiene. Failure to clean your teeth causes a buildup of a bacteria film which can damage your gums. Also, you should ensure to replace our toothbrush after every three months.
  • Regular dental checkups. To maintain proper oral health, you need to visit your dentist at least twice a year for your dental checkups. Although dental abscesses cannot wait for your dental appointments, regular checkups help in the early detection and treatment of the condition.
  • Use fluoride toothpaste. Fluoride is a substance that protects your teeth from mineral loss and prevents the formation of acid that damages your enamel. Using fluoride toothpaste for daily brushing is one of the most effective ways of preventing dental caries and protecting yourself from a dental abscess. 

Dental Abscess Frequently Asked Questions

A dental abscess is an emergency that should not wait for your dental appointment. Prompt treatment of the condition will help avoid the life-threatening complications associated with the infection. The following are some frequently asked questions on dental abscesses:

  1. What does a dental abscess feel like?

A dental abscess is a puss-filled pocket that covers the affected area. When you have an abscess in your tooth, you could notice that your tooth is more sensitive to hot or cold foods. Also, you could experience pain while biting or chewing on hard foods. Some other symptoms that could indicate tooth abscess include swelling of the gums, redness of your face, discolored teeth, and bad breath, among others.

  1. Can I pop the abscess on my tooth?

You should never attempt to pop an abscess on your gum. Opening a swelling without sterile tools could worsen the infection by introducing different strains of bacteria to the area. There is a dental procedure required to drain the abscess, which is safer and less painful. Your dentist will make an incision on the abscess allowing the pus to drain out, then wash the area with saline water to help reduce swelling.

  1. Can a tooth abscess go away without treatment?

Tooth abscesses are often painful but not always. Either way, you should consult your dentist as soon as you experience any of the symptoms of this condition. Even when the abscess ruptures, a dental abscess will not go away without treatment. If the abscess fails to drain. The infection could spread to your jaws, neck, and brain. When you leave the abscess untreated, you risk developing serious lung, brain, and heart conditions.

  1. Is dental abscess an emergency?

Yes. Since it is difficult to predict how a dental infection will spread, it is best to treat any form of tooth abscess as a dental emergency. Sometimes, the abscess could spread outwards, causing a swelling filled with pus on the gums. In other instances, the infection may not be visible outward but could spread to the bloodstream. Any visible swelling on the gums could be dangerous when left untreated. Seeking immediate dental care will help relieve the symptoms and prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of the body.

  1. How do I know that the abscess is spreading?

Without the proper treatment, a dental abscess could spread to the neck, head, and other parts of the body leading to severe and potentially life-threatening complications. When a tooth infection spreads, you could experience symptoms like severe headache, swelling and pain in the neck, fever, and throbbing pain, among others. You can reduce the chances of spreading by seeking immediate dental care as soon as possible. 

Find an La Puente Emergency Dentist Near Me

A dental abscess is a localized collection of pus at the root, gums, or bone supporting your teeth. There are different types of tooth abscesses depending on the location of the infection. Dental abscess comes from bacterial infection and is considered a dental emergency that should not wait for you to schedule an appointment. Some of the symptoms of this condition may include swelling of the affected areas, tooth sensitivity, and pain when biting or chewing. Whether you experience pain or not, a dental abscess can cause potentially life-threatening complications when left untreated.

Seeking emergency dental services is crucial if you experience any of the symptoms associated with a dental abscess. If you or your loved one seeks emergency dental services in La Puente, CA, we invite you to contact us at La Puente Advanced Dentistry. Call us today at 626-626-7075 and allow us to guide you through the restoration of your oral health.