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What is an abscessed tooth? And how do you know if you have one? There are signs and symptoms that will help you know if you have an abscessed tooth that requires treatment. If you or someone you know has an abscessed tooth, also known as a “periapical abscess”, the tooth has a pocket of pus (fluid) in it caused by a bacterial infection. This occurs when the nerve of a tooth is dying or dead, and arises out of the tip of the tooth’s root and spreads out. If this fluid is not drained, the tissue surrounding it becomes swollen and generally painful. To prevent the spread of this bacterial infection, the body’s defense creates this abscess as a barrier around the infection.

Things to Know about an Abscess

  • Sometimes the body forms a tunnel–a fistula or sinus tract–through the bone and skin to let the pus drain out. If this happens and pus is draining out, there will be an unusual and unpleasant taste in the mouth. Although the drainage lowers the pressure of the abscess, the infection doesn’t go away on its own and will usually be treated with antibiotics.
  • An abscessed tooth can erupt as a result of severe tooth decay, a tooth injury, or even gum disease.
  • Although an abscessed tooth is usually painful, this is not always so. But even if the abscessed tooth is not painful and the abscess is untreated, the infection can last for months or years.
  • Signs that indicate a possible abscessed tooth include smelly breath, a bitter taste in the mouth, fever, pain, swollen neck glands, red or swollen gums, and a feeling of illness and general discomfort.
  • The abscessed tooth infection will eventually damage the surrounding area, such as the jaw bone and teeth, as it spreads to other areas of the body, destroying tissue as it travels. So it is highly advisable to seek out treatment.

To treat an abscessed tooth, your dentist will search for the origin of the abscess, and then clean it out. If the infection is inside a tooth, your tooth will be drained by making a hole and you will need a root canal along with either a filling or crown. If the abscess in the tooth is large it may need to be extracted. You will also need antibiotics to heal the infection.

Dr. Ramin Moradi is here to keep you smiling. Please reach out to our San Tomas Signature Smiles team in Campbell, California at 408-378-2890 for assistance today!