Is Your Oral Abscess a Dental Emergency?

If you have a pimple-like bulge around your gum tissue that is painful, you may be dealing with an oral abscess or periapical infections. Some people may ignore an abscess in hopes that it will go away, but abscesses need to be treated. Take a look at why abscesses happen, why they are considered a dental emergency, and how to treat them.

What Causes It, and What Are the Symptoms?

Oral abscesses can be caused by many things, such as untreated gum disease, untreated cavities, failed root canal treatments, or trauma. If your gum tissue is only slightly swollen, you may wonder if you have an abscess or another issue—like a gum impaction or gingivitis. Besides causing a boil on the gums, people with abscesses may experience:

  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing
  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes around the jaw
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Facial swelling
  • Sensitivity to pressure or temperature when eating
  • Bad breath

Not only do abscesses cause these symptoms, but if they are left untreated, the infection could spread into the intracranial sinuses or neck.  

Why Is It a Dental Emergency?

A study from 2018 found that the specific bacteria from abscesses could potentially cause cardiovascular disease. And if an abscess ruptures, then the bacterium can spread through the bloodstream and lead to sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening complication where the body tries to fight a bacterial infection, but instead, releases widespread inflammatory responses throughout the body. Sepsis can damage organs or even be fatal. In short, it's important to reach out to your dentist if you suspect an abscess so that he or she can safely treat it.

How Are Abscesses Treated?

The course of treatment depends on how far along the infection has progressed. If abscesses are caught early, your dentist will use an anesthetic to numb the gum tissue and then drain the abscess so that the bacteria cannot spread further. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to wipe out the infection and then use x-rays at a later appointment to confirm that those bacteria haven't spread. Besides antibiotics, your dentist might recommend over-the-counter analgesics and warm salt-water rinses.

When an abscess is caused by a bad tooth, then a dentist may not only drain the abscess but recommend an extraction or root canal therapy. If a patient has a more serious case, where an abscess has spread along the floor of the mouth or neck, then you may need to visit a hospital to have the area drained. Hospitalizations may also be necessary if the abscess has already caused life-threatening secondary infections. If you suspect that you have an abscess, reach out to an emergency dentist service today.