Grosse Pointe & Shelby Township


Tooth Abscess Treatment & Causes

A man that needs tooth abscess treatment holding his jaw.

Abscesses are a condition that can happen almost anywhere in the body. Many are surprised to find that this includes your gums and even your teeth! When an abscess forms in your mouth, it can cause extreme pain and put you at risk for spreading infection. It’s critical that you know how to identify the symptoms so that you can seek gum or tooth abscess treatment as quickly as possible.

What Causes an Abscess?

Dental abscesses are build-ups of pus that can form inside of your tooth or gums. Depending on where they’re located, they have different names:

Periapical Abscess

Also known as a tooth abscess, a periapical abscess forms when an infection happens inside of your tooth. This happens due to a dead nerve in the tooth, or due to the nerve dying. Periapical abscesses begin at the source of the decay in the tooth but will spread to the surrounding bone in the mouth.

In many cases, a periapical abscess is the result of a cavity that’s grown deep enough to reach the pulp chamber of the tooth.

Periodontal Abscess

If the abscess is located in your gums, it’s known as a periodontal abscess. These are less common than periapical abscesses but are similar. They also form due to bacterial infection on the gums.

Symptoms of an Abscess

Abscesses in your mouth will cause some symptoms that, over time, will become increasingly difficult to ignore. Some examples of common symptoms are:

  • Tooth or Gum Pain
  • Bad Taste in Your Mouth
  • Swelling
  • Jaw Pain
  • Swollen Lymph Nodes
  • Fever

In some cases, an abscess can form a small growth on your gums that, when you apply pressure, it releases some of the pus inside. This is a good indicator that you have an abscess.

Some of the less severe symptoms of a tooth or gum abscess overlap with symptoms of other, more common dental issues like cavities or gum disease. It’s important when you experience any of these symptoms to visit your dentist to identify the source of the issue. You don’t want to let an abscess go untreated, especially if you begin to develop a fever or other severe symptoms.

Tooth Abscess Treatment

The way that your tooth abscess is treated depends on how far the infection has progressed. Your dentist may need to use an x-ray to determine the extent of the infection. If it hasn’t spread too far, it may be possible for your dentist to simply clear the abscess of the infected material and put you on a regimen of antibiotics to aid recovery.

In other cases, your dentist may need to make an incision in the gum tissue, so that they can access the infected tissue.

When the infection from an abscess reaches your gums, dentists will often need to perform a root canal procedure to treat them. After drilling through the crown of your tooth, they can drain the area, clean it and disinfect it. A root canal can sometimes take multiple visits.

As a last resort, you may need to undergo an extraction as treatment for your abscess. This solution is typically reserved for cases where the infection has spread far enough to reach the periodontal ligament or your jaw bone.

Don’t Delay Treatment for a Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is easier to treat when it’s caught early. Because the root of an abscess is bacterial infection, it has the potential to spread and cause significant damage when left untreated.

Woman in need of tooth abscess treatment at the dentist.

The most common risk is that the infection spread to your jaw or neck. The longer your body remains infected, your chances of developing sepsis increase. Unlike a minor toothache, this problem is life-threatening and will require emergency care to treat.

While rare, you could also experience a complication known as Ludwig’s Angina. This condition leads to your airway closing, which can suffocate you without quick intervention.

Like most dental problems, an abscess only gets worse with time. Just like gum disease or cavities are easier to treat in their early stages, an abscess is far less dangerous to your health when your dentist can catch it early. Complications from an abscess don’t follow a set timeline; if you think you have one, get to your dentist as soon as possible!

If your dentist can accommodate dental emergencies and you have a severely painful abscess, try contacting them to be seen immediately. You’ll want to have them assess the abscess to make sure it doesn’t spread.

Contact us to set up an appointment

Schedule an Appointment Today!

If you think you have a tooth abscess, we’re here to help. If you have questions, or would like to speak with one of our dentists in SE Michigan about your dental options, contact us!

Schedule an appointment with us today! New patients can receive FREE comprehensive exam and consultation, plus a full panoramic x-ray with a paid cleaning procedure (a $200 value)!


Grosse Pointe Farms: (313) 881-2480

Shelby Township: (586) 803-8300


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