It’s one of the most serious conditions that can jeopardize your smile and health.
What is it?
It’s an abscess. Abscessed teeth occur when bacteria has made its way deep into the tooth, through the enamel, dentin, and into the nerve. Once the nerve becomes infected, it must drain itself somehow. Usually the only place to drain is out the bottom of the root of the tooth, creating an abscess along the gumlines.
The most obvious symptom of a tooth abscess is the swelling or “pimple” that appears on the gumlines near the root of the tooth. This fistula may seem to come and go, sometimes draining or causing a bad taste in your mouth. Other symptoms may (but not always) include pain, hypersensitivity to temperature or pressure and facial swelling.
Diagnosing an Abscess
Even if we already suspect that there is an abscess, we will need to take an X-ray of the tooth to see the exact location and extent of the infection inside of your bone. Just one periapical X-ray is all that is needed. We then assess the abscess on the film to determine how many teeth are involved and the type of treatment needed next.
Before any treatment is started, we may need to place you on an antibiotic to clear up the initial infection. This will not prevent it from returning though, so treatment should begin within the next week or so after the medication is started.
The only way to restore and preserve teeth impacted by a dental abscess is with a root canal. During the root canal we will remove the infected nerve tissue, clean out the chamber of the tooth, then place a filling material into the canal which prevents infection from spreading back through the root of the tooth. The tooth will no longer be vital, so it will be more prone to wear and tear over time. That’s why we will also place a crown over the tooth to protect it following the root canal.
If you suspect that you have a tooth abscess, call us as soon as possible. Waiting too long could cause the loss of your tooth, or in rare cases even the need for hospitalization.