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Daniel F. Merrill, DDS, MS & Stephanie M. Merrill, DDS

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You Might Have an Oral Abscess if You Are Experiencing Severe Dental Pain

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If you have ever experienced a dental abscess, you will likely know it. While not always painful, it often can be until the infection kills the pulp inside the root of the tooth, causing the tooth to lose sensation. Abscesses are an oral condition stemming from a bacterial infection in the mouth with a buildup of pus in the gum pocket, tooth or the bones that anchor your teeth in position.

The most common symptom of an abscess is experiencing severe pain in the mouth, ears or neck on the same side where the abscess is located and will usually feel worse when you lie down. You can find yourself with a tooth abscess from an untreated cavity, having previous dental work or an injury to your tooth. Unfortunately, left untreated, an abscess will only worsen and potentially travel to other areas of your body and cause damage.

Signs You Have an Abscess in Your Mouth

  • Pain when you bite down
  • Trouble opening your mouth
  • Pain in the jaw
  • Swollen cheeks
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Tooth sensitivity when eating hot or cold foods
  • Having really bad breath
  • Tasting something bad in your mouth
  • Spiking a fever
  • Feeling ill overall

Treatment for an Abscess

When an abscess develops in your mouth, you will need to seek treatment as soon as possible. There are a variety of ways to treat your painful oral abscess.

  • We can drain the pus from the abscess by going into it and cleaning the infected area with a saline solution.
  • We can provide you with a root canal treatment to get rid of the infection while also saving the damaged tooth from extraction. By entering the affected tooth, we can remove the infection by taking out the pulp and draining the abscessed area. Once that is cleaned out, we can fill your pulp chamber and root canals, sealing them from further bacterial infection. However, should the tooth be beyond saving it can be extracted and the abscess drained to remove the infection.
  • Your abscess may require taking antibiotics if it has already spread to your jaw or surrounding teeth or your immune system is weak.
  • Certain abscesses may require oral surgery, especially when they continually crop up or if you have an abscess in the tooth pulp. You may also need surgical intervention if you have a periodontal abscess stemming from the jaw and impacting your gums. We will remove the affected gum pocket and recontour your gum tissue. For your surgery, you will be made as comfortable as possible with the help of local anesthesia and even a light IV sedation. Post-surgery, you will need a friend or family member to drive you home until your sedation is gone. You will also be prescribed pain relievers to help you stay as comfortable as possible while you recover.

At-Home Health Tip

If you have an oral abscess or are trying to actively prevent an abscess in the mouth you can gargle at home with saltwater. Simply mix together 1/2 teaspoon of your normal table salt with 1/2 cup of warm tap water. This can often bring additional relief to pain from an abscess as it helps wash out harmful oral bacteria that accumulate under your gums. Saltwater is a great way to stop bacteria in their tracks so they don’t create an abscess while also relieving dental pain. A saltwater gargle is also a good way to facilitate healing after oral surgery or having a tooth extracted as it promotes wound healing and healthier gums in general.

Don’t Wait!

If you think you might have an abscess, don’t wait for the pain to worsen. An infection that has spread to other areas of the body can show up as skin discoloration, fever, vertigo, lack of energy, eyesight problems, chills, nausea and vomiting. Please give our team a call if you suspect you have an abscessed tooth, and we will get you the care you need!