A dental abscess occurs when an infection builds up in the root of the tooth, or between the tooth and the gum. Bacteria cause the infection when they find their way into cracks in the teeth, creating a pocket of pus that can be excruciatingly painful. They can also be caused by poor dental hygiene or untreated cavities, with two types of abscesses being caused as a result of an infection.

Where the infection occurs between the gum and the tooth, a periodontal abscess (gum abscess) is found. This can be caused when debris and food become trapped here; or if bacteria has built up in bone, this results in severe periodontal disease.

Dentist working

Should the infection begin inside the tooth, this will be classed as a periapical abscess (a tooth-related abscess). Often caused by dying or dead nerves in the tooth, it will normally form at the tip of the root before spreading into surrounding bone.

These types of abscesses will not disappear without treatment and can go on for months or years if they remain unnoticed because they don’t cause much pain. However, most dental abscesses will cause a lot of pain, which is when emergency dental care in San Diego or your local area should be sought.

What Happens if Dental Abscesses are Left Untreated?

There are a number of potential side-effects that can be caused as a result of a dental abscess being left untreated, including:

Cysts: This is a bubble of fluid in the jaw bone that can be found after the extraction of a severely damaged tooth. Many dentists will recommend root canals to try and save the tooth but if the abscess is left untreated for too long, the tooth may not be salvageable. In severe cases, the cyst will need removing by surgery.

Fistula: A fistula (sinus tract) can occur when damage is caused to the surrounding bone and teeth of an untreated abscess. This tract forms a hollow channel through skin and bone where the pus can drain, leaving an unpleasant taste in your mouth. This fistula can cause some relief to the pain as it allows for the pus to drain (the pressure buildup of the pus is often what causes the toothache) but it will still need to be treated effectively.

Sepsis: Bacteria can still spread to other parts of the body, even if the abscess drains on its own. Where this bacteria travels to the neck, chest, head or rest of the body, this can lead to sepsis, which is a life-threatening condition.

Preventing Dental Abscesses

Even if your teeth are pristine and you’ve never had an abscess, taking the necessary steps to prevent one from ever happening is a must. Clean your teeth regularly and floss them on a daily basis, while also having professional dental cleans too. Avoiding acidic or sugary foods will also help to reduce your risk of developing tooth decay, which can be a prime cause for dental abscesses.

Eileen Sherman has worked as a dental assistant for many years and has gained much knowledge over those years. In her spare time she is a keen writer and writing articles about dentistry is second nature!


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