What Are Dental Abscesses?

If you’re experiencing a concerning amount of pain or discomfort in your mouth, it may be caused by a condition known as a dental abscess. An abscess is a pocket created by bacteria that can occur in your tooth (periapical abscess) or gums (periodontal abscess).

Your abscess may be caused by:

  • An improper oral care routine
  • Traumatic injury to your face or mouth
  • Faulty or damaged dental work

Symptoms of a dental abscess may include:

  • Persistent pain sourced from your mouth, jaw, neck, or ear
  • Swelling around the affected areas
  • Sensitivity to touch, pressure, or temperature
  • Unpleasant taste in your mouth due to the abscess draining
  • Fever

When Should I See a Professional?

If you’re wondering how to get rid of a tooth abscess without going to the dentist, the simple answer is that you can’t. Your dental health has reached the point where you need professional intervention and treatment, or it will continue to worsen. Luckily, this is a great opportunity to engage with your dental professional, and they’re specially trained to help you confront this problem and the issues that led to it.

We recommend scheduling a visit with your dental professional immediately. In the meantime, we have some helpful tips for finding relief at home while you’re waiting for your appointment.

Helpful tip: The Mayo Clinic recommends visiting the emergency room if you experience swelling and fever or have trouble breathing or swallowing.

Finding Relief

It’s important to remember that home remedies for your abscess tooth will not treat your abscess or address its underlying cause. Your abscess will not get better without treatment from a professional and will likely worsen. However, there are options available that may help temporarily reduce your discomfort or inflammation in the meantime, which can still offer tremendous relief.

Several options may help provide relief for your discomfort from a dental abscess while you’re waiting for professional treatment:

Over-the-Counter Medication

It can help take medications to reduce your pain or swelling. If you do go this route, be sure to use these medications as instructed on the packaging. This may be effective in helping to reduce your discomfort, but don't let it prevent you from scheduling an appointment with your dental professional.

Cold Compress

You can use a store-bought icepack or make your own at home by freezing a washcloth or using a bag of ice or frozen veggies. Apply it to the affected area on the outside of your cheek for 10 minutes once an hour.

Antiseptic Mouthrinses

There are three types of rinses you can try to find relief.

  1. For a salt-water rinse, stir a few teaspoons of salt into warm (but not hot) water until it dissolves.
  2. Another option is to mix 3% hydrogen peroxide with water in a one-to-one ratio.
  3. If you're not the do-it-from-home type, you can purchase an over-the-counter antiseptic mouthrinse at your local drug, grocery, or convenience store.

Swish whatever mixture you choose around your mouth, or rinse with it after meals and spit it into the sink. Note that while this is a great habit to start, it will not cure your abscess.

Helpful tip: While some dental conditions (such as gingivitis) are reversible on your own with the help of proper dental care, dental abscesses will not heal on their own or through any methods you try at home. They require treatment and diagnosis from your dental professional and can lead to more serious infections if left untreated.

Dental Abscess Treatment and Prevention

Please take comfort in the fact that while abscesses are unpleasant to deal with, they’re a regular occurrence at your dental office. Your dental professional is specially trained and equipped to diagnose the underlying cause of your abscess, provide appropriate treatment, and offer tips to prevent it from occurring again in the future.

Treatment for a dental abscess may include:

  • Prescribed antibiotics (be sure to take these as instructed and only at the recommendation of your dental or medical professional)
  • Professional removal of infected tissue, drainage of the abscess, and cleaning affected areas
  • Root canal treatment if the infection has infiltrated the soft inside of your tooth

To prevent future abscesses and avoid worsening the conditions that led to your infection, it’s a smart bet to use this time to ensure you’re practicing a healthy dental routine.

Steps to maintain your oral health may include:

  • Gently brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Clean between your teeth once a day using floss, a flossing device, or an interdental brush
  • Consume a balanced diet that limits overly sugary or acidic foods and beverages
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco products
  • Visit your dental professional regularly

Dealing with an abscess can be difficult, but you can take this as a challenge to improve your dental routine and avoid further problems in the future. You’ve made a great choice to inform yourself on what dental abscesses are, why you need professional treatment, and what you can do to find temporary relief in the meantime.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 


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2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay


What's behind your smile?

Take our Oral Health assessment to get the most from your oral care routine


2.3 billion

people worldwide suffer from tooth decay