A toothache can be more than just an annoyance. If you're strapped for cash or just short on time, you might consider just trying to power through the pain. However, doing so can actually be dangerous. That pain you're feeling could be a sign of a dental abscess, which can create some serious complications if left untreated. Take a look at what you need to know about dental abscesses and the importance of timely treatment.
What Is An Abscess?
A dental abscess is a type of infection where a small pocket in your mouth fills with pus. There are two different types of dental abscesses. One is a periapical abscess. This primarily affects the root of the tooth, and is often caused by bacteria traveling inside of the tooth through a cavity. The other type, a periodontal abscess, affects the gums. These are more likely to occur if you have untreated gum disease. You may not be able to see a periapical abscess, as it occurs underneath the gum line. However, a periodontal abscess may look like a red, inflamed boil or pimple on the gum.
Apart from tooth pain, the symptoms of an abscess include redness, swelling in the gums or face, any sign of puss drainage, a bitter taste in your mouth, and bad breath. Some abscesses don't cause pain – they may be located in a spot that numbs the nearby nerve so that you don't feel pain, though you may feel pressure or swelling. It's important not to ignore an abscess whether or not you feel pain – even an abscess that doesn't cause pain can be dangerous.
What Is The Danger of an Untreated Abscess?
Beyond the difficulty that you may have eating or talking because of an abscess, an untreated abscess can cause a variety of complications. If your abscess is related to decay in the affected tooth, it's important to understand that the tooth will continue to decay if left untreated and may eventually crack or fall out. If the abscess is related to gum disease, it can damage the tooth socket and jawbone, causing the tooth to loosen or fall out.
Worse, the infection from a dental abscess can eventually spread to other parts of your body. When you have an infection in your mouth, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream through a mouth sore or a cut in the gums. If the infection reaches your brain, you could develop a brain abscess, which can lead to a coma. If it spreads to your sinuses, it can cause a severe sinus infection. And if the bacteria reaches your heart, it can cause bacterial endocarditis, a condition that can cause death if left untreated. Furthermore, the swelling in your face and lower jaw can become severe enough to block your airways and cause suffocation.
Such dangerous complications are more common than you may think. A review of patient data by researchers found that between 2000 and 2008, hospitalizations increased by more than 40%, and more than 60 patients died after being hospitalized.
Treating an Abscess
There are several ways to treat an abscess, depending on the cause and placement of the abscess. Your dentist will probably prescribe antibiotics to cure the infection. Your abscess may also need to be cut and drained. If the abscess occurred in the tooth root, you may require a root canal, and in some cases, if the tooth is too damaged, your dentist may recommend an extraction.
It's important to seek treatment as soon as you know or suspect that you may have a dental abscess. The sooner you act, the less likely you are to lose the tooth and the less likely the infection is to spread. If you have a regular dentist that's familiar with your dental and medical history, you should make the first available appointment with them or ask to be seen on an emergency basis. If you do not have a regular dentist, seek out an emergency dental clinic in your area, or if all else fails, go to the emergency room where you can receive treatment even if you don't have insurance. You may qualify for patient assistance if you're unable to pay your bill.
Dental abscesses are no small matter, and attempting to power through the pain or delay treatment is a mistake. Your oral health can have serious effects on your overall physical health, so early treatment of a dental infection is crucial not just for your teeth and gums, but for your overall well-being.Share
8 August 2016
After dealing with a few root canals, I realized that it was time to take my dental hygiene a more seriously. I talked with my dentist about what I could do differently, and he was full of great suggestions that would help. He walked me through different ways to brush, floss, and take care of tartar buildup, and it was really amazing to see the difference that it made. I also started taking a fluoride supplement to strengthen my enamel. When I made it to my next appointment, my dentist was blown away with the improvement. This blog is all about improving your dental appointments by keeping your teeth healthier.