If you have a toothache that goes beyond mild to moderate tooth pain and reaches a level of severe, throbbing pain, it could be a sign of a tooth abscess. A tooth abscess is a pus-filled lesion at the roots of a tooth, and is caused by an infection. The first sign is a throbbing toothache that won’t go away.
At first, the tooth will likely be sensitive to chewing and biting, as well as to heat and cold. You also may develop a fever, swollen lymph nodes in your jaw or neck, or swelling on your face.
If the abscess ruptures, you’ll know because of the nasty-tasting discharge in your mouth. Although the pain may recede if the abscess ruptures, you still need to be treated by a dentist in order to get rid of the infection, save the tooth and avoid complications. If the abscess doesn’t rupture, the infection can spread to other parts of the body. This is not a problem to ignore.
Treatment will likely include draining the abscess if it hasn’t ruptured. Your dentist also may recommend that you take over-the-counter pain relievers, rinse your mouth with warm salt water, and take antibiotics. More severe abscesses may require a root canal to remove infected tissue, and the worst cases require extraction of the tooth.
A tooth abscess can get its start as an untreated tooth cavity, so the best way to prevent an abscess is to prevent the cavity in the first place by following a consistent oral health routine of twice daily tooth brushing and daily flossing. Regular visits to your dentist are important too, especially if you’ve been treated for an abscess. This allows your dentist to confirm that the infection has cleared.