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What to do if You Have a Tooth Abscess

Updated: Jan 16

What Is a Tooth Abscess?

Also known as 'dental abscess,' a tooth abscess is essentially a pus pocket that can form in various parts of the tooth due to some kind of underlying bacterial infection. The condition is usually painful, with the intensity of the pain being moderate to severe, often radiating to the neck and/or back.

If left untreated, the condition can soon turn into a life-threatening event.

Different Types of an Abscessed Tooth

The type of an abscessed tooth is based on the location where it has formed. With that said, here are the most common types of it:

  1. Periodontal abscess – This type of abscess forms on the gum sitting near the roof of the tooth.

  2. Periapical abscess – This type of abscess forms at the tip of the root of the infected tooth.

  3. Gingival abscess – This is the abscess that forms in the gums.

The most common symptom of an abscess is throbbing pain in the gums and/or tooth. The pain is often sudden but gradually intensifies. If your child is dealing with an abscessed tooth, contact your emergency pediatric dentist asap.

Other Signs and Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess

  1. Pain radiating to the jaw, neck, and ear

  2. Pain that is worse as you lie down

  3. Facial redness

  4. Facial swelling

  5. Tooth sensitivity

  6. Red and swollen gums

  7. Bad breath

  8. It hurts to chew or bite

  9. Loose/discolored tooth

  10. Painful/swollen lymph nodes around the neck and jaw

  11. Fever

Common Causes

Mostly it's the entrapment of bacteria into your gums and teeth that leads to an abscessed tooth. But, it can happen due to a variety of other causes as well, such as:

  1. If there's a cavity, bacteria can travel to the pulp of your teeth. The pulp is the innermost and softest part of a tooth. This is where lies the blood vessels, connective tissues, and nerves. When this happens, it can cause a periapical abscess.

  2. If you have a periodontal abscess, it could be due to some underlying gum condition. At times, it can also be a result of some kind of injury.

  3. Sometimes a foreign body like a bristle or a popcorn hull can get embedded into your gums. This is the most common cause of the gingival abscess.

At-home Measures for an Abscessed Tooth:

Saltwater Rinse

Rinsing with salt water can wash away pus and bacteria build-up from the abscess. It can offer some degree of comfort if there's mild pain. Although it may reduce pain to some degree, rinsing alone won't be enough to clear up and prevent further infection. If the problem persists, talk to an emergency dentist near you.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is excellent for managing bleeding gums and reducing plaque.

Here's how you can use hydrogen peroxide for your dental health:

Take equal parts 3% hydrogen peroxide and water and mix the two.

  1. Use it for swishing around in the mouth and spit. Be sure not to accidentally swallow the solution.

You can use this at-home remedy multiple times a day.

Oil Pulling

An ancient oral hygiene method, oil pulling, can remove toxins built-up in your gums and teeth when performed on an empty stomach. There are some studies that talk about oil pulling helping control bad breath, fighting bacterial growth, and stopping the bleeding gums. However, the research is limited, and we need more scientific evidence.

You can use sesame, olive, and raw coconut oil for oil pulling.


Garlic carries powerful antibacterial and pain-management properties. Here's how you can use garlic in case of an abscessed tooth:

  1. Use a clove of fresh garlic and crush it to make a paste

  2. Rub it on the infected area.

Use an Over-the-counter Pain Reliever

Over-the-counter pain medications can help take the edge off if you're in discomfort due to the abscessed tooth. NSAIDs like ibuprofen are also anti-inflammatory, so they may help with the swelling as well. However, be sure to take only the recommended dosage even if it doesn't fully help you with the pain.

Treatment Options for a Tooth Abscess

Draining the Abscess

This is the most common and effective treatment option for an infected/abscessed tooth. To drain the abscess, your dentist will create a small incision into the affected area so he/she could drain the pus out.

The treatment may also involve washing and irrigating the place of infection with a saline solution and debridement of the narcotic tissue that has no chance of ever healing.

Antibiotic therapy

Sometimes it's not possible to entirely drain the abscess. If the infection is severe, it can be difficult to perform local anesthetic as it won't achieve the desired numbing effects.

If the infection is in the lower molar, it can be challenging to numb the patient. In such a case, your doctor may put you first on antibiotics for a few days. The idea is to fight the infection first before he/she could perform an anesthetic to make room for a comfortable and effective treatment.

Root Canal Treatment

Under this procedure, your dentist will remove the arteries, veins, nerves, and infected tissues from the center of the infected root.

RCT is expected when the infection is severe. It helps drain the abscess and fight the infection. Once the infection has healed properly, your dentist may use a crown to restore and preserve the tooth.

Tooth Extraction

Often the last resort, your dentist may suggest extracting the tooth if the infection is beyond treatment. He/she will extract the tooth to drain the abscess so that the area can heal.

Final Thoughts

If the at-home remedies are unable to treat the abscess, it's paramount that you seek professional dental help. You must not take tooth abscess lightly as it can escalate the problem quickly if left untreated.

Authored by Johnny Bonds

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