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What is an Abscessed Tooth and How Can It Be Treated?
An abscessed tooth can cause severe pain and requires a prompt visit to the dentist. The condition is a tooth infection caused by the presence of bacteria inside the tooth. This article covers tooth abscesses and treatment options.
Overview of an abscessed tooth
A tooth abscess is the accumulation of pus inside the tooth due to bacterial infection. The pus is a thick, yellowish fluid that causes painful swelling if it cannot drain out. The abscess creates a barrier around the infection as a way to prevent the infection from spreading. Abscesses form quickly, as early as one or two days after infection sets in. A tooth abscess is also called a periapical abscess and happens when the nerves in the teeth are dead or dying. The infection forms at the tip of the root and spreads to the surrounding jawbone.
Sometimes, the infection may cause minimal pain initially. Without treatment, the infection may persist for several months. It will not heal on its own, so patients must visit the dentist as soon as possible. Failure to treat the infection can lead to damage to the nearby bone and teeth. A hollow tunnel called the fistula may develop to allow pus drainage. When pus starts to drain, one might notice a strange taste in the mouth.
The pressure buildup is usually what causes severe pain from an abscessed tooth. As the abscess drains through the fistula, the pressure lessens and the discomfort reduces. However, patients will still need to undergo treatment.
Sometimes, an untreated abscess can lead to a fluid-filled bubble, called a cyst, in the jawbone. If the infection is due to a damaged tooth that cannot be saved, the cyst may be removed along with the tooth. If saving the tooth is possible, root canal treatment will be required to remove the infection. If the infection spreads into the bloodstream, it can cause severe health complications.
Treatment from the dentist
If there is a fistula, the dentist will use it to trace the origin of the infection. This may entail inserting a flexible, thin material into the fistula, which will reveal its cause. After the dentist cleans the infection, the fistula will heal on its own.
If the infection started inside the tooth, the dentist would create an access hole in the tooth to drain the abscess. The tooth will require tooth canal treatment, as well as a dental filling or crown for protection. If the abscess is severe or the tooth is badly damaged, tooth extraction might be necessary. A large abscess usually needs draining. The dentist will create a path through the gum for any pus or fluid to drain out, reducing the risk of spreading infection.
Severe gum disease can also lead to an abscessed tooth. Draining the abscess is a quick solution, but the gum disease will need to be treated to avert future infection. The dentist may provide a prescription for pain relievers and antibiotics. These medications help treat the infection and alleviate the pain.
If you are experiencing signs of an abscessed tooth, do not hesitate to contact the dental office to schedule an appointment.
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