A dental abscess is a collection of pus originating within the tooth that has spread into the bone or gums over time due to bacterial infection.
There are two common types of dental abscesses – periapical abscesses (at the tips of tooth roots) and periodontal abscesses (in surrounding structures such as gum and jaw bone).
A dental abscess usually manifests as sudden severe pain, tenderness and swelling within the affected area. The ache may worsen with temperature change (hot and cold), and during sleep.
Why are dental abscesses painful?
Abscesses can grow in size quite quickly. It applies significant pressure against the tooth and bone surface, resulting in severe throbbing pain and tenderness to touch, or to bite on – almost like a bruise. Some patients also experience the sensation that the “tooth feels pushed out of the socket.”
The cause of dental abscess is bacterial invasion. The bacteria multiply and produce toxins within the tooth, gum or the jawbone. In response to this, your body produces pain signals that quickly alert your body of the growing infection.
Your level of pain may vary depending on how long that the tooth/gum had been infected, the type of bacteria involved, and your body’s ability to fight off the infection.
What should I do?
When you have a dental abscess, it is best to seek urgent emergency dental treatment.
Over-the-counter pain medication and/or prescribed antibiotics might provide temporary pain relief. However, in order to achieve predictable pain relief, pus needs to be drained through root canal therapy, gum treatment or tooth removal.
Then, your dentist or endodontist may prescribe some antibiotics and painkillers to facilitate complete healing.