Warning: This post is going to be gross. Abscesses are gross, painful, and dangerous. That’s why we want to help you prevent them.
What Are Abscesses?
Abscesses are your body’s natural reaction to infection. White blood cells surround invaders and create a barrier, isolating damaged tissue and the enemy cells to prevent the spread of infection. Within the “quarantined” area, pus forms from the dead tissue, cells, and fluid. This collection of waste material is the abscess.
Oral abscesses can be located either in the tooth itself or in the surrounding gums, and they generally occur when cavities or gum disease are left untreated. An oral abscess will be accompanied by a throbbing or aching pain, swelling, and redness. Other symptoms can include fever, swollen glands in the neck, a bitter taste in the mouth, and bad breath.
It is very important to treat oral abscesses quickly, both because they are much easier to treat in the early stages, and because the infection can spread to other parts of the body.
The bleeding that often occurs with gum disease can allow bacteria in the mouth to enter the bloodstream and cause infections in the jaw, face, sinuses, and beyond. In those with weak immune systems and people with certain heart conditions, this can lead to dangerous complications like (in rare cases) endocarditis, an infection in the lining and valves of the heart.
In the past, abscesses were treated by removing the tooth, but in most cases today there are other options. First, a dentist drains the abscess, eliminating much of the pain and a majority of the infection. The dentist will then be able to treat the underlying source of the problem. Depending on the severity of the infection, the diseased tissue may be removed by root canal, though in serious cases, extraction may still be necessary.
How to Prevent an Oral Abscess
Preventing an abscess comes down to avoiding tooth decay and gum disease. Be vigilant about your daily brushing and flossing, use an antiseptic fluoride mouthwash, and avoid cavity-causing foods and drinks. Unfortunately, you can’t do it alone – regular checkups and cleanings are necessary to clear away entrenched plaque that you can’t remove by yourself. Protect your teeth from cracks or chips, and treat any damage quickly – anything that affects the integrity of the tooth can create an opening for infection.
If you suspect you have an abscess, call us (or your dentist) immediately!
If you live in East Tennessee, we’d love to have you as one of our patients. Contact us today, and we’ll be happy to set up an appointment.
If you’d like to receive updates from My Family Dentistry, information and tips about dental care, promotions, and more, subscribe to our email newsletter.