An abscess can form around the root of an infected tooth, creating a pocket of pus that won't heal without intervention. If left untreated, the infection can spread beyond the mouth to the neck and other areas of the body.
Generally, untreated tooth decay or a deep cavity is the initial problem. These typically lead to gum disease, either gingivitis or periodontitis, which is the more advanced stage. An abscess can also form under a cracked tooth. If an infection develops and isn't treated, it can kill the living pulp inside the tooth and create an abscess.
Symptoms of an abscess include pain, swelling, red gums, a fever, and even trouble with swallowing. Sometimes an abscess is hard to diagnose because symptoms haven't presented yet; this indicates that the pus pocket is draining elsewhere. An abscess can be detected by your dentist with an x-ray at a routine examination.
To heal the infection, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, especially if the infection has spread beyond the mouth. This won't cure the abscess, however; a root canal may be needed, and is the best way to save the tooth. Otherwise the tooth may need to be extracted.
It's important to treat an abscess because of how it can impact your overall health. The infection creates inflammation in the gums; over time, the inflammation and the chemicals it releases eat away at both the gums and the bone structure that hold your teeth in place. Inflammation can then spread throughout the body. A link between severe gum disease and diabetes is the strongest connection determined so far, as inflammation that begins in the mouth may weaken the body's ability to control blood sugar levels. Oral inflammation has also been linked to heart disease, dementia, and rheumatoid arthritis.
If you think you may have an abscess, have your dentist check immediately to protect your overall long-term health. For more information, please contact:
Webster Cosmetic Dentistry, Ltd.
1121 Warren Ave., Downers Grove, IL 60515