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Quick Facts

Dental Abscess

(Tooth Abscess)


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2020| Content last modified Apr 2020
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What is a dental abscess?

An abscess is a collection of pus. Pus is a mix of white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria. It builds up wherever your body is fighting an infection.

A dental abscess is an abscess that forms around the root of your tooth. A severe abscess can spread into your gums, cheeks, or jawbone.

What causes a dental abscess?

A dental abscess is caused by bacteria that get in the pulp of your tooth or in the gums surrounding the tooth. The pulp can become infected when you have a deep cavity or a cracked tooth.

Your body attacks the infection with large numbers of white blood cells. The dead white blood cells become the pus that forms the abscess.



What are the symptoms of a dental abscess?

A dental abscess causes:

  • Constant tooth pain that gets worse when you chew food

  • Sensitivity to hot or cold food

  • Swelling of your gums

  • Sometimes, fever

  • Sometimes, swelling of your jaw, the floor of your mouth, or cheeks

  • Sometimes, difficulty opening your mouth or swallowing

Eventually the abscess can break open, letting the pus drain.

How do dentists treat a dental abscess?

Dentists give you pain medicine and antibiotics and treat the abscess by:

  • Draining the pus with surgery or a root canal

Root canal is a dental procedure to remove the pulp from your tooth. The dentist then fills and seals the tooth canal.

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