Abscessed Tooth

Abscessed Tooth


A tooth abscess is caused by bacterial infection right at the root of the tooth, or right in between the tooth and the gum. It’s most commonly caused by advanced tooth decay, but it can also be due to gum disease or to trauma to the tooth. All these conditions cause openings or holes to appear in the hard outer covering of tooth enamel, enabling bacteria to enter and infect the center of the tooth called the pulp. From there the infection can spread out to the root of the tooth, and even into the boney socket around the tooth.


The most common symptom is having a severe toothache that might be sharp or throbbing, but other symptoms can include:

  • Feeling pain when eating
  • Having a fever
  • Noticing increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Having an unpleasant taste in your mouth or bad breath
  • Noticing the gums surrounding the tooth is swollen or red, and this swelling can also spread to the jaw
  • The abscess may have even broken through, creating an open sore on the side of the gum

Sometimes the toothache can stop, and a common mistake is to think the infection has cleared up. This isn’t the case, as it simply means the pulp containing all the nerves has died. The infection will continue to spread, causing destruction.

For this reason it’s essential to book an appointment with Midtown Dentistry if you have toothache or any of the above symptoms so you can get a proper diagnosis.


Your dentist will carry out a number of different tests to assess whether or not the tooth is abscessed. They may probe the affected tooth, and it will tap it very gently. In addition your dentist will ask you to bite down, and to say if the pain increases when you do so. It’s quite possible that dental x-rays will be necessary to see the extent of the infection.


Treatment for an abscessed tooth will focus on eliminating the infection while preserving the tooth. This could mean that the abscess will need to be drained, something that can be done during root canal therapy, or possibly through making an incision in the infected gum tissue. Sometimes the infection can only be drained through extracting the tooth, allowing it to drain through the empty socket, but this is very much the last resort as the aim will always be to try to save the infected tooth.

Your dentist is likely to prescribe antibiotics to help fight infection, and you’ll probably want to use over-the-counter painkillers to help relieve any discomfort. Once the infection is cleared then your dentist will be able to restore the tooth with either a filling or through completely crowning the tooth.


Dental abscesses can generally be prevented through practicing good oral hygiene, combined with proper regular professional dental care in the form of exams and professional cleanings. This will allow any signs of decay or infection to be treated much earlier. In addition if you notice the tooth was chipped or cracked, then prompt action can help prevent infection.

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Call us at (713) 807-9877 or use the button below to Ask a Question or Schedule Your Appointment to have Dr. Jonathan Penchas or one of his expert staff examine your teeth.

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