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Abscessed Tooth: Symptoms, Causes, Home Remedies & Treatment

What is an Abscess?

A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can form inside the teeth, in the gums, or in the bone that holds the teeth in place. It’s caused by a bacterial infection.

In general terms, an abscess is called pus. When an area in the body becomes infected, the immune system sends white blood cells to fight with that infection. These cells collect and combine with the damaged tissue and germs creating whitish color liquid called pus. One can easily find this abscess because it appears as a white swollen lump that is filled with pus. But it is difficult for you to check the abscess in your mouth. So dental checkup is needed if you have an abscess in the mouth

Abscessed Tooth:

An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus formation in different parts of a tooth as a result of bacterial infection. An abscessed tooth causes moderate to severe pain that can sometimes radiate to your ear or neck. Bacteria in your teeth or gums are the main reason for dental abscess.

Tooth Decay to Dental Abscess:

If you are experiencing pain or symptoms of an abscessed tooth, you must consult a dentist as early as possible. A tooth abscess is an infected mass in the center of a tooth caused by a bacterial infection. Abscesses are a result of tooth decay. They can occur due to tooth trauma, like when a tooth is chipped or broken. Gaps in tooth enamel can provide an opening for bacteria to enter, infecting the interior part of the tooth. This part of the tooth is called the pulp. When this happens, the infection can spread from the tooth root out into the surrounding bones.

Abscessed Tooth Symptoms:

The most commonly reported symptom of a tooth abscess is a severe toothache including bad odor, a bitter taste in the mouth, fever, tooth sensitivity, pain when chewing, and a swollen jaw.

  • an intense throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum that may come on suddenly and gets gradually worse
  • pain that spreads to your ear, jaw, and neck on the same side as the affected tooth or gum
  • pain that’s worse when lying down, which may disturb your sleep
  • redness and swelling in your face
  • a tender, discolored, or loose tooth
  • shiny, red, and swollen gums
  • sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink
  • bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth

If the infection spreads, you may also develop a high temperature (fever) and feel generally unwell. In severe cases, you may find it hard to fully open your mouth and have difficulty swallowing or breathing.

dental abscess

However, the way this happens depends on the type of abscess as described below.

Types of Abscess

Periapical Abscess:

The area around the tip of the root is called a periapical area. This is an abscess at the tip of a tooth’s root. The primary cause for this abscess is dental caries or cavity. If the cavity left untreated, the bacteria enter into the dentin and further penetrates into the pulp. When the cavity reaches the pulp , it is called pulpitis. The pulp is the soft, inner part of your tooth. This is made up of nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels. As the pulpitis progresses, the bacteria make their way to the bone that surrounds and supports the tooth, called the alveolar bone, and a periapical abscess is formed

Periapical Abscess Causes

A periapical tooth abscess occurs when bacteria invade the dental pulp — the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue

Bacteria enter through either a dental cavity or a chip or crack in the tooth and spread all the way down to the root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root.

Risk Factors:  These factors may increase your risk of a tooth abscess:

  • Poor Dental Hygiene: Not taking proper care of your teeth and gums — such as not brushing your teeth twice a day and not flossing — can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth abscess, and other dental and mouth complications.
  • High Sugar Diet:   Frequently eating and drinking foods rich in sugar, such as sweets and sodas, can contribute to dental cavities and turn into a tooth abscess.
  • Dry Mouth Having a dry mouth can increase your risk of tooth decay. Dry mouth is often due to the side effect of certain medications or aging issues.

Periapical Abscess Treatment

Periapical abscesses can cause severe tooth pain and sensitivity to temperature; a fever; pain while chewing; and swelling in the gum, glands of the neck, and upper or lower jaw. Treatment for a periapical abscess can involve antibiotic medications, draining the abscess, or performing root canal surgery to save the tooth. In rare cases, the tooth may have to be pulled.

Gingival Abscess

This is an abscess on the gums. A foreign body, such as a popcorn hull or toothbrush bristle, gets embedded in your gums.  This is also caused by bacterial infection due to tooth decay, rough brushing, broken teeth, food stuck in the gum line, or when bleeding occurs in the gum line. Traumatic injury or any excessive orthodontic force on the teeth can also cause Gingival Abscess.

The infected area grows sensitive and causes throbbing pain. You may also notice swelling around the infected tooth, gums, or cheeks. If left untreated, the infection can cause perforation of bones and swell in the surrounding tissues, which may lead to a swollen face or swollen neck glands. It can also spread to the surrounding tissues and cause permanent damage to the structure of the teeth.

Initial stages of Gingival Abscess can be easily treated by applying ice packs in the swollen area, taking pain killers, or rinsing with warm saltwater. In most cases, the abscess ruptures by itself, causing little or no pain. Signs of severe Gingival Abscess also include nausea, vomiting, fever, and difficulty when swallowing.

Gingival Abscess Treatment

If the condition worsens, tooth extraction is necessary, which prevents further infection from spreading so that the abscess drains away. Additionally, the pus can be extracted from the infected area by applying a local anesthetic. Although this is not a very complicated task, it must still be taken to a good dentist and not be dealt with at home because when draining the pus, some people tend to damage the area even further, thus making the situation even worse. So choose to go to a professional for help who will know how to treat such situations with great care and expertise.

Diagnosis of Gum Pain:

You must visit a dentist to get a proper diagnosis of gum pain. There are several common causes. You may suffer from gum disease, an infection, or an abscess. You may notice soreness or bleeding in the early stages of gum disease. Early treatment is the key to a successful recovery. An infection may cause swelling and pain. A small infection can grow into an abscess that needs draining or antibiotic treatment. You can often reverse mild gum disease with better dental hygiene at home.

Periodontal Abscess

This is an abscess on the gum next to the root of a tooth. It might also spread to the surrounding tissue and bone. : Gum disease usually causes this type, but it can also be the result of an injury.

A periodontal pocket, a tiny gap, is formed when the periodontal ligament separates from the root. The pocket gets dirty easily and is very hard to keep clean. As bacteria build up in the periodontal pocket, a periodontal abscess is formed. A periodontal abscess can be acute or chronic.

Patients can develop periodontal abscesses as a result of a dental procedure which accidentally resulted in periodontal pockets. Also, the use of antibiotics in untreated periodontitis, which can mask the symptoms of an abscess, can result in a periodontal abscess. Sometimes gum damage can lead to periodontal abscesses, even if no periodontitis is present.

Treatment for Periodontal Abscess:

Pus drainage from the pocket is done first after that scaling of teeth surface and debris is removed from the pockets. Antibiotic solution irrigation will be done. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication will be given to the patient. The patient is recalled for assessment within 24-48 hours.

Your doctor can use your dental X-ray to determine whether your gum abscess has resulted in bone loss. Depending on the extent of bone loss, your dentist may choose to extract a tooth. They may also recommend a procedure to regenerate lost bone or gum tissue

A gum abscess can sometimes affect the pulp, which is the center of the tooth. The pulp is made up of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. If the pulp is affected, you may need a root canal to remove the damaged section of the tooth

How to Get Relief from Dental Abscess:

There is no home remedy to get relief from the dental abscess. You need dental consultation to get rid of this abscess. Taking painkillers may give relief from the pain.

It may also help

  • avoid hot or cold food and drink if it makes the pain worse
  • try eating soft foods if possible, using the opposite side of your mouth
  • use a soft toothbrush and temporarily avoid flossing around the affected tooth

These measures can help relieve your symptoms temporarily, but you should not use them to delay getting help from a dentist.

When to Consult a Dentist:

A general dentist can help you with gum inflammation treatment, sore gums treatment, and gingivitis bleeding gums treatment, as well as serious gum infections.  Treatment depends on the severity of your gum disease. For mild gum disease, your dentist may talk to you about better care at home. You may need a different type of toothbrush or toothpaste. Treatment for more advanced gum disease may include a deep cleaning treatment and antibiotic products

Dental Abscess Complications

A tooth abscess won’t go away without treatment. If the abscess ruptures, the pain may decrease significantly — but you still need dental treatment. If the abscess doesn’t drain, the infection may spread to your jaw and to other areas of your head and neck. You might even develop sepsis — a life-threatening infection that spreads throughout your body

Sometimes, pus from a tooth infection spreads from the root tip through the bone into the gums so the gums swell near the root of the tooth. The swelling from the pus is often the cause of intense constant pain that worsens when chewing. Depending on the location of the tooth, the infection may spread further into soft tissues (cellulitis), causing swelling in the jaw, into the floor of the mouth, or in the area of the cheeks. Eventually, the tissue may break open, allowing the pus to drain. Infections that spread to affect the airway can be serious and even life-threatening.

Dentists treat an abscess immediately to minimize the chances of dangerous spread of infection by draining the pus, which requires oral surgery to remove the tooth or root canal treatment. Antibiotics help eliminate the infection, but removing the diseased pulp and draining the pus is more important

If you have a weakened immune system and you leave a tooth abscess untreated, your risk of a spreading infection increases even more.


Avoiding tooth decay is essential to preventing a tooth abscess. Take good care of your teeth to avoid tooth decay

  • Use fluoridated drinking water.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to clean between your teeth on a daily basis.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three months, or whenever the bristles are frayed.
  • Eat healthy food, limiting sugary items, and between-meal snacks.
  • Visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings.
  • Consider using an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth rinse to add an extra layer of protection against tooth decay

Home Remedies for an Abscessed Tooth

A tooth abscess should be treated by a dentist, but some home remedies can give relief from the discomfort caused by infection.

The following simple home remedies can be applied along with prescribed treatment

Salt Water Rinse : 

Rinsing your mouth with salt water is an easy option for temporary relief of your abscessed tooth. Salt is available in everyone’s home and the preparation of saltwater is also very easy. It can also promote wound healing and healthy gums. Mix half teaspoon of normal table salt with a half cup of warm water. Rinse your mouth with the saltwater. Try to swish it around your mouth for at least two minutes after that spit the water out.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is another affordable option for an abscessed tooth. Baking soda has antibacterial properties and it is excellent for removing plaque in the mouth. Mix half tablespoon of baking soda with a half cup of water and a pinch of salt. Swish this mixture and spit out. Repeat this process until you have finished the mixture. You can repeat this up to two times per day

Cold Compress

A cold compress will help in reducing the pain and swelling. Place ice cubes in a dry towel. Hold the compress against your skin near the affected area.

Clove Essential Oil

Clove oil has been used since ancient times as a natural toothache remedy. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It comes in diluted forms as well as a very concentrated form. If you are using concentrated form don’t forget to dilute it. 3 to 5 drops of concentrated oil in an ounce of carrier oil. Apply the diluted oil to the affected area by placing a few drops on a cotton ball or swab. You can also make a clove oil mouth wash by placing a few drops of oil in a small glass of water.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is an excellent remedy for fighting a bacterial infection. It can also help reduce plaque and bleeding gums

To use this remedy:

  • Mix equal parts 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with water
  • Swish the solution around in your mouth, then spit.
  • Make sure not to swallow any of the solution Hydrogen peroxides may be used multiple times per day

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is another ancient means of oral hygiene that’s been used to treat mouth ailments. It’s believed that oil pulling removes toxins from the teeth and gums. Limited studies suggest that oil pulling may be a good treatment for bleeding gums, bad breath, and reducing bacteria. However, there’s not enough scientific evidence to confirm whether it’s effective for use in oral health.

Good oils for oil pulling include:

  • raw coconut oil
  • sesame oil
  • olive oil

Oil pulling is recommended in the morning on an empty stomach

To use this remedy:

  • Take 1 tablespoon of your chosen oil into your mouth.
  • Vigorously swish the oil around through your teeth for up to 20 minutes.
  • Don’t swallow the oil. Spit the oil out in a garbage can — not your sink — to avoid clogged pipes.

Garlic Paste

Garlic is another natural remedy with an ancient history of many beneficial therapeutic uses, including as a pain manager and bacteria killer.

To use this remedy:

  • Make a paste by crushing a fresh clove of garlic.
  • Rub the paste on the infected area.
  • This can be repeated multiple times per day.

Dental Health Guide, Providing information on dental care and dental hygiene along with detailing the most common dental diseases with symptoms and treatment methods. Readers should use the dental articles as reference only and consult a dentist and visit a dental clinic for dental health problems.

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