Dental abscess: cause and treatment

If you ignore a toothache or cavity and continue to deal with it, it can eventually develop into an abscess. Pus accumulates under the skin. There is then an infection and this is very painful. Chewing and biting hurts and the gums are inflamed and swollen. With poor dental care, the risk of infection is greater. How do you recognize a dental abscess, what are the symptoms and how should it be treated?

What an abscess is

An abscess can occur in various places in the body. It is a space under the skin that consists of a collection of pus. It can occur as a result of an infection by a bacterium, parasite or foreign substance. The pus is caused by the immune system being put to work in which the white blood cells try to fight the invaders. This forms a subcutaneous swelling that is under pressure and the surrounding tissue becomes inflamed and looks red. This causes pain.

Abscess in the teeth

Toothache often occurs as a result of a cavity. If this is neglected, an infection can develop that can eventually develop into a dental abscess. If the infection penetrates inward and enters the root canal, the tissue may become further inflamed and die. As a result, pus can build up if it cannot drain and a painful abscess develops. The pain is throbbing and mainly present when chewing and touching. A swelling is visible on the outside. In some cases, the abscess breaks open on its own, the great pressure is relieved and the complaints disappear. A channel may also form from the abscess to the gums through which the pus is drained. If this does not happen, you should go to the dentist or doctor as soon as possible because otherwise the inflammation could penetrate into the bone. This can be life-threatening.


An abscess can develop as a result of an infection. Brushing your teeth regularly removes plaque. Poor dental hygiene can cause tooth decay and inflamed gums, which increases the risk of inflammation and therefore an abscess many times over. People who suffer from an allergy or have reduced resistance are also more likely to get an infection in their teeth. An abscess can also develop as a result of a chronic condition such as Crohn’s disease.

The symptoms

As mentioned, a dental abscess is very painful and can make eating and even speaking difficult. Other symptoms may include the following:

  • Fever
  • Swollen painful area that is warm to the touch
  • To sweat
  • Nausea
  • The area around the abscess is red
  • A general feeling of being ill
  • Lethargy
  • Pain when touched


The diagnose

When the mouth is examined, swelling will be visible on the affected tooth or molar. A small opening is visible in the gums and the tooth is painful to touch. An X-ray can be used to determine whether a tooth root abscess is present. The pus can be examined to find out which pathogens are present.


If there is a bacterial infection, antibiotic treatment is chosen. You can possibly use painkillers for the pain. If there is too much pressure on the abscess, a small incision is made so that the pus can drain. A root canal treatment will then take place to prevent further damage. If the tooth is too loose, it will have to be removed.

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