Abscessed Tooth

Abscessed tooth is an infection at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth which is very painful. Commonly caused by severe tooth decay. Other causes are trauma to the tooth, such as when it is broken or chipped, and gum disease or gingivitis.

These problems can cause openings in the tooth enamel, which allows bacteria to infect the center of the tooth. The infection may also spread to the bones supporting the tooth.


Severe and continuous toothache that results in gnawing or throbbing pain or sharp or shooting pain are common symptoms of an abscessed tooth. Other symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Pain when chewing
  • Sensitivity of the teeth to hot or cold
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Foul smell to the breath
  • Swollen neck glands
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
  • Redness and swelling of the gums
  • Swollen area of the upper or lower jaw
  • An open, draining sore on the side of the gum

How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?

Your dentist will probe your teeth with a dental instrument. If you have an abscessed tooth, you will feel pain when the dentist's tap your tooth with the probe. Your dentist will also ask you if you feel any increase in pain when you bite down or close your mouth tightly . Your dentist may suspect an abscessed tooth because your gums may be swollen and red.

Your dentist may also take X-rays to look for erosion of the bone around the abscess.

How is an abscessed tooth treated?

  • In order to eliminate infection, the abscess may need to be drained. This may be done through the tooth by a procedure known as a root canal. Root canal surgery may also be recommended to remove any diseased root tissue after the infection has subsided.
  • Tooth extraction is also an option, allowing drainage through the socket.
  • Abscess can also be drained by incision into the swollen gum tissue.
  • Antibiotics are prescribed to help fight the infection. Warm salt-water rinses and over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen can be used to relieve pain.

Can an abscessed tooth be prevented?

Good oral hygiene practices can reduce the risk of developing a tooth abscess. Also, if your teeth experience trauma (become loosened or chipped), consult your dentist right away.