Updated: Sep 1
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Have you woken up to throbbing pain and a swollen face?
Or have you got a raised lump on your gum that hurts? Perhaps you feel like you’ve got a temperature too?
Getting an abscess is hard, as it can cause swelling and pain. You may be able to reduce the pain temporarily, but it must be checked as infection can spread.
Be especially careful of infection if you have other issues, such as a heart condition or diabetes. If your dentist is not available, find out where the nearest emergency dental facility is.
An abscess is a condition that needs treatment. It’s likely that a health professional will prescribe antibiotics for you until a dental appointment is available.
How do I know if it is an abscess in my mouth?
If you’re experiencing throbbing pain in your mouth, and there’s swelling, then the chances are you have an abscess in your mouth. An oral abscess is a pocket of pus caused by bacterial infection. It’s painful and needs treatment.
pain, tenderness and swelling around the infected area in the mouth.
pain spreading to the jaw, ear or neck.
gums may be swollen and red.
teeth will feel especially sensitive to pressure and temperature.
pus may ooze between the infected tooth and the gum line.
What do I do now?
The first thing to do is get professional help. An abscess won’t go away without treatment. During the practice’s opening hours, your dentist should be able to fit you in for an emergency appointment the same day, but call early as the spaces soon fill up. Practices usually have special arrangements too for patients who need treatment out of hours. If you subscribe to a monthly payment plan with your dental practice, that usually covers emergency call-out charges too. Even out of hours, it’s a good idea to call your own practice, as the answer phone will offer helpful information. Remember – if you have swelling that is continuing to increase and threatens your breathing, treat it as a dental emergency. Because an abscess is a bacterial infection, it’s important to get it seen as soon as possible so that treatment can begin. Don’t be tempted to delay, take a few pain-killers, and hope it’ll go away.
Why do abscesses happen?
There are several reasons why you may have got an abscess in your mouth. Most often it’s a sign your oral care isn’t meeting your needs. There’s no need to feel embarrassed about that, as people need different levels of oral hygiene according to the condition of their dental enamel and their general health. That said, we should all maintain a minimum regime of brushing for two minutes last thing at night, and at one other time during the day, as well as a daily floss. Because an abscess occurs when bacteria penetrate the pulp of a tooth (periapical abscess) or colonize the margins between the tooth and gum (periodontal abscess):
a diet that is too sugary increases bacterial growth in the mouth.
broken or chipped teeth open pathways for infection.
sensitive teeth have tiny cracks that allow bacteria to penetrate through the tough enamel into dental pulp.
symptoms of gum disease, such as bleeding and soreness, were disregarded.
difficult to clean wisdom teeth become infected.
a dental procedure can also cause infection.
What will my dentist do next?
Root canal therapy can often save an infected tooth.
Your dentist will clear the infection by draining the abscess, and may prescribe a course of appropriate antibiotics. Moving forward, sometimes the tooth can be saved with root canal therapy. In some cases, however, removing the tooth is the only safe option.