What to do if you have a gum abscess

October 24, 2014

A painful tooth could mean you have a gum abscess. Know the symptoms to look out for to determine if you have an abscess and what to do about it.

What to do if you have a gum abscess

What is an abscess?

A gum abscess, also called a dental abscess, is the body's way of reacting to a gum infection. The body forms a pus pocket around the invasive bacteria that is causing the infection. The pus that forms contains white blood cells that fight the bacteria. A pus-filled gum abscess is usually quite painful.

Types of gum abscesses

There are two types of gum abscesses: periapical and periodontal.

Periapical abscess: A decaying tooth forms an abscess in the heart of the tooth's dental pulp. The dental decay causes bacteria to enter the tooth's pulp and cause an infection. The abscess will spread from the pulp of the tooth into the gum. Often the tooth's nerve will die, which usually causes an even larger abscess at the base of the tooth and in the gum surrounding the decayed tooth.

Periodontal abscess: A periodontal abscess develops in the gum and in the supporting tissue structure around the tooth. It forms as a direct result of advanced periodontal gum disease. In advanced gum disease, the gum starts to detach and retract from the tooth's surface. Pockets start to occur between the gum and the tooth. The pockets are a perfect place for bacteria to invade and multiply. To fight the invading bacteria, the body sends white blood cells to the location, and a gum abscess forms.

Symptoms of a gum abscess

  • A person who has a gum abscess will feel pain and swelling in the location.
  • Often, there is an unpleasant taste in the person's mouth.
  • The tooth where the abscess forms may hurt and be hard to bite down upon.
  • People with gum abscesses may experience fever, upset stomach and other flu-like symptoms such as chills, sweating and fatigue.
  • In severe cases, a gum abscess may cause significant swelling and cut off airways, which makes breathing difficult or impossible.
  • Without treatment, the infection from the gum abscess could invade the brain and central nervous system.
  • In some cases, a gum abscess may cause death.

Treatment of a gum abscess

  • People with gum abscesses should seek treatment immediately from a dentist or physician.
  • A gum abscess will not go away on its own. It may rupture and feel better, but eventually the abscess will return.
  • It must be treated by a medical professional, who generally will use antibiotics.
  • The abscess may be drained and the infected tooth repaired or removed. The physician may also prescribe pain relief medication.

If you're suffering from any of these symptoms and think you might have an abscess, get in touch with your doctor to check it out.

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