What to Expect if You Have an Abscessed Tooth

What to Expect if You Have an Abscessed Tooth

When you’re trying to decide if an ache or pain is a real dental emergency, nothing is clearer than an abscessed tooth. Between the excruciating pain and the swelling or fever, you’re going to know something is wrong almost immediately. When the pain and discomfort get bad enough, you shouldn’t hesitate to get care and contact your emergency dentist as soon as possible.

Hopefully, you never have to experience an abscessed tooth, but if you do, here’s what you need to know.

What is an Abscessed Tooth?

What is an Abscessed Tooth?A tooth abscess is a bacterial infection in your tooth that creates a pocket of pus in the root or gum. There two common types of abscesses. The periapical abscess occurs at the tip of the root, and the periodontal abscess occurs in your gums next to the root. This second one is often called a “gum” abscess because of its location.

Because the problem is an infection that’s capable of spreading anywhere in your body, an abscess is a dental emergency that needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. For most patients, you’ll know something is wrong based on your symptoms:

  • Severe or throbbing pain in your jaw, tooth, or cheek
  • Sensitivity to temperature, both hot and cold
  • Pain and discomfort while biting or chewing
  • Swollen face or cheek
  • Fever
  • Dark or discolored tooth

Once you begin to notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your emergency dentist in Mesa or Phoenix as soon as possible. The infection can spread to other parts of your body if left untreated. In rare cases, the abscess may rupture, giving you temporary relief — and a foul taste and odor in your mouth. Without correct treatment, the infection can still cause problems even after a rupture.

Diagnosis and Treatment of an Abscessed Tooth

Diagnosis and Treatment of an Abscessed ToothThe primary diagnosis for an abscessed tooth will be based on your symptoms. Your dentist will examine you and order x-rays to confirm their diagnosis. Any abscess will require treatment, even if it ruptures on its own or you’re not feeling pain.

Your abscess will be drained of the pus to remove as much bacteria as possible. You’ll also be put on antibiotics to clear up the infection and prevent it from spreading. In some cases, a root canal may be able to save your tooth. If not, it will need to be pulled.

Not receiving treatment can lead to dangerous complications. The infection can become worse, and you can develop sepsis — a life-threatening infection. Pregnant women should report symptoms immediately to avoid complications with their pregnancy. For children, an abscessed baby tooth typically can’t be saved and will often be pulled.

Abscess Tooth Prevention

Abscess Tooth PreventionThe best way to prevent any dental emergencies, but especially an abscess, is through good, consistent dental care. Having your teeth and gums checked every few months will catch most problems before they become serious. Other ways to prevent an abscessed tooth include:

  • Brushing and flossing regularly
  • Drinking fluoridated water
  • Using a fluoride or antiseptic mouthwash
  • Avoiding a high sugar diet
  • Reducing and stopping teeth grinding and clenching
  • Replacing your toothbrush every few months

Wisdom teeth have a higher chance to developing an abscess. Because of this, your dentist will recommend having them removed as soon as possible. Previous dental work can also increase your risk of having an abscess, but don’t let this be a reason not to see a dentist. Working with a well-qualified dentist will prevent most abscesses and help you catch the rest before they become serious.


An abscessed tooth is a dental emergency you don’t want to ignore. Because it can happen to almost anyone at any time, it’s important to have a dentist you can call whenever you need help. Look for a dentist who will help you with regular preventative care to avoid an abscess and who will be there for you in a dental emergency.