Dental abscesses are pockets of infection that develop in the soft tissues around a tooth. If left untreated, the bacteria within an abscess can spread further into surrounding tissues and bones, possibly leading to serious complications. Here is an explanation of the diagnosis and treatment of dental abscesses.
Pain while chewing is often the first sign that people with a dental abscess will notice. Abscesses can also be accompanied by a high fever, swelling and redness of the gums, or swelling of the glands in the neck. In some cases, a visible pocket of infection is present but is located in the back of the mouth, making it difficult for the patient to see. This means you should see your dentist if you notice any of these symptoms, even if you can't see any swelling.
When you visit your dentist with a possible dental abscess, he or she will perform tests to confirm the existence of an abscess. First, the dentist may use a light and a small mirror instrument to search for a visible abscess. Some dentist also use a small instrument to tap the gums gently. If an abscess is present, your gums will be highly sensitive to pressure. X-rays can also be used to look for signs of infection spreading inside the gums.
Draining the Abscess
When an abscess is located, the dentist must drain it to prevent the spread of infection. There are a few different techniques that dentists use to drain an abscess. The most direct method is to create a small incision in the gum tissue directly above the abscess. If a significant amount of bacteria is thought to have infiltrate the tooth pulp, a root canal may be performed to remove the decayed pulp and drain the abscess through the tooth.
If the abscess has progressed to an advanced stage, it is possible that one or more teeth near the abscess will decay to the point that they can't be saved. In this case, the dentist will remove all of the dead teeth and drain the abscess through the dental socket using a suction tool.
Once the abscess has been drained, aftercare is necessary to prevent infection from recurring. Normally, this is in the form of prescription antibiotics provided by your dentist. It is vital that you take these antibiotics on the schedule recommended by your dentist and maintain good dental hygiene. If the area around the abscess is still very sensitive, you can use a soft-bristle toothbrush to make brushing less painful.
While abscess recovery is typically without complications, there are a few signs of problems that you need to look out for and contact your dentist immediately if they occur. Excessive bleeding, swelling, or severe and increasing pain after your treatment are indicators that the abscess may not have been drained effectively. If you suffer from any dental trauma during the recovery process, you should visit your dentist to determine if there is any increased risk to your overall dental health.
For patients who had teeth removed during the process of draining their abscess, tooth replacement is the next procedure to consider after the swelling has gone down and you have completed your course of antibiotics. Most dentists will opt to replace teeth that were removed due to an abscess with dental implants. Implants are made of titanium and are fitted with porcelain or ceramic crowns, meaning that they are impervious to future infection and decay.
Dental abscess treatment is an effective procedure that is essential to avoid long-term pain and potentially serious complications. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a dental abscess, see your dentist as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment. Contact your local dentist, more information.