What is an abscessed tooth

Dental abscess

What is a dental abscess?

A tooth abscess is a condition in which a collection of pus (abscess) forms in the teeth, gums, or the bone that holds the teeth in place (the jaw).

It occurs due to a bacterial infection. This happens when an infection in the mouth is not treated at all or is insufficiently treated. A tooth abscess is a common condition and can appear at any age. Symptoms include severe pain in the mouth and jaw, swelling of the gums or face, and possibly a fever.

Treatment involves removing the infected tissue from the tooth and draining the pus. Antibiotics may be needed. Most of those affected recover well after treatment.


Tooth abscesses are caused by bacterial infections in the mouth. These infections can spread to the gums, bone, and other tissues around the affected tooth. People with poor oral hygiene are more likely to develop an abscessed tooth. It is also possible that people with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system, develop tooth abscesses more often than others.


The most typical symptom of a tooth abscess is a throbbing pain in the tooth and in the surrounding gums and bones. The pain is sudden, gradually worsening, and often radiates to the cheek, ear, or neck. The tooth can loosen.

The gums and face are often swollen and reddened on the side affected by the abscess. In addition, the teeth can be overly sensitive to heat and cold. Those affected can also have bad breath and a fever. Difficulty swallowing or even breathing can occur much less often.

If you are unsure whether these symptoms apply to you, start a symptom analysis.


The diagnosis is usually made based on symptoms and the results of the physical exam. An x-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan of the face can confirm the diagnosis.


Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen can reduce the pain. Treating a tooth abscess requires draining the pus that has formed around the tooth. Sometimes root treatments can help fight the infection. The affected tissue is removed from the inside of the tooth. In some cases the tooth needs to be extracted. If the infection is severe, will possibly antibiotic treatment necessary.


The prognosis after treatment of the tooth abscess is generally good. People may continue to experience pain while the swelling and inflammation slowly decrease. Some people may develop a persistent infection in the mouth that may require further treatment.


Tooth abscesses can be caused by a good oral hygiene, regular checkups at the dentist and by treating holes or infections prevented in the mouth.