An abscessed tooth is a collection of pus that results from infection. It can occur either at the root of the tooth or between the gum and the tooth. It can be caused by breaking or chipping of the tooth, gingivitis, gum disease, a failed root canal, or most commonly, tooth decay. Something like an untreated tooth cavity or a crack in the tooth can cause openings in the tooth enamel, where bacteria can then infect the pulp of the teeth. This can also be spread from the tooth to the booths underneath that are supporting the teeth.
The cause of these infections is direct growth of the bacteria from an existing tooth cavity into the soft tissues and bones of the face and neck.
Getting rid of a tooth abscess requires medical help. There are several different procedures that a patient can undergo. If the tooth can be saved, then a root canal will be performed. The tooth will be drained, and then a crown will be placed over the tooth. If the tooth cannot be saved, it will be extracted, letting the abscess drain itself.
With these medical procedures, dentists will prescribe antibiotics to fight the infection and speed the recovery process. An abscess can break by itself, in which case steps should be taken to keep the area clean and encourage drainage. Even if it has broken on its own, a visit with a dentist is still important, as there may be additional medication or instructions to follow.
People who have cavities or toothaches can take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil) ornaproxen (Aleve), as needed for relief of pain and inflammation. These medications will help the pain, but they will not treat the infection. Follow-up with a health-care provider is always indicated.
If an abscess ruptures by itself, warm-water rinses will help cleanse the mouth and encourage drainage. Even then, a follow-up visit to your dentist is important.
Dentists can spot abscesses by using x-ray and identifying areas of tooth erosion. Abscesses can usually be detected simply by physical examinations or with light tapping on the tooth by a dentist, to which the victim will respond with pain. To follow up, a dentist may use an electric tester in order to check the health of the tooth before determining if there is an abscess or any other disease.
Prevention plays a major role in maintaining good dental health. Daily brushing and flossing along with regular dental checkups can prevent tooth decay and dental abscess. Anyone who suffers from frequent dental abscesses needs to be evaluated by a health-care provider to determine if an underlying medical condition is responsible.
Remember to brush and floss after every meal and at bedtime. If tooth decay is discovered early and treated promptly, cavities that could develop into abscesses can usually be corrected.
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