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Abscessed Tooth Dangers

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Briefing yourself on abscessed tooth dangers can help you keep your mouth healthy. Teeth can develop a pocket of pus called an abscess when bacteria enter the pulp canal located in the center of the tooth, where the tooth's network of nerves lives. If you're experiencing tooth pain or are concerned you may have a tooth infection, consult your dentist as soon as possible.

Causes of Tooth Abscesses

Most commonly, a tooth abscess develops from an untreated cavity. In this case, bacteria in the mouth begin to damage the tooth, and the decay may reach the blood vessels and nerves in the inner chamber if not treated in a timely fashion. The bacteria cause an infection in the pulp canal system of the tooth called a tooth abscess. This infection originates in the tooth's inner chamber and may spread to the end of the root.

A fracture in the tooth, severe trauma or problems with an existing root canal can also lead to an abscessed tooth.

How can you tell if you have an abscessed tooth? A tooth that is sensitive to both hot and cold might have a cavity that is irritating the nerve of the tooth. An abscess could also be developing if the tooth is tender to the touch or causing discomfort while chewing. A slight swelling or boil on the gum may be another sign of an abscess.

Abscessed Tooth Dangers

The tooth abscess usually remains localized and the infection stays contained. However, in rare situations the infection may spread and create complications. If your body's immune system has trouble containing the infection, it may cause swelling and pain in the adjacent soft tissues in the mouth, like the floor of the mouth.

If an abscess in a lower tooth spreads, it may infect the neck and floor of the mouth and make breathing difficult. An abscess in an upper tooth can spread the infection to the sinus and eye regions. These severe complications are uncommon but may require hospitalization.

Treatment and Prevention

Abscessed teeth cannot be treated like infections elsewhere in the body because oral antibiotics will not control the infection. A tooth abscess is most often treated through a root canal, which repairs the tooth. This procedure removes the infected nerve tissue inside the tooth and eliminates the infection. In some circumstances, the tooth may need to be extracted to stop the infection. If there is significant swelling, the dentist may need to drain the tissue.

Tooth abscesses can be prevented in many cases. Maintaining good oral hygiene and brushing with a fluoride toothpaste may help reduce your risk of cavities. It's key to see your dentist regularly for checkups so they can spot cavities before they spread to the nerve of the tooth.


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This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.