how do you treat an abscessed tooth

Sometimes patients ask, “how do you treat an abscessed tooth?” If you are asking that question, we hope this post will be reassuring. With prompt, professional care, a dental professional or endodontist can effectively treat an abscessed tooth.

Any painful dental concern requires professional care, and this blog post is no substitute. It isn’t intended to serve as a replacement for an examination or diagnosis from a dentist. We hope by better understanding dental health, you will be empowered to make healthy choices.

As always, we urge you to call your dentist if you experience pain or any other concerning symptoms. Early diagnosis can lead to early treatment. The sooner you are treated, the better, and the sooner you can live a life free of discomfort.

What is a Tooth Abscess?

First, it helps to understand what is happening if your dentist says you may have a tooth abscess. The abscess is a pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection.

There are many potential causes, and the best course of treatment will vary depending on the severity of the infection, your history, and whether other teeth are also affected. Typically it occurs when too much bacteria enters the inner dental pulp through a cavity, chip, or crack in the tooth. The bacteria cause swelling, inflammation, and infection.

The one thing you don’t want to do if you have an abscess is to ignore it. Unfortunately, a tooth abscess won’t disappear without treatment. Plus keep in mind, time is of the essence. If the swelling gets large enough, it could create other complications, including hospitalization. 

Common Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth

First, learn to recognize the symptoms before asking, “how do you treat an abscessed tooth?”

A Few Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess Include:

  • Throbbing, persistent toothache that may radiate to the neck, jaw, or even the ear.
  • Sensitivity to pressure that you may notice when chewing.
  • Swelling in the face.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth many describe as a “foul-tasting” salty fluid.
  • Trouble swallowing or breathing.

While there are multiple causes for many of these symptoms, please contact your dentist if you experience any of these symptoms. They can indicate a serious concern like a tooth abscess or another serious dental health issue.

Risk Factors and Prevention

Some of the most common risk factors include a high sugar diet, poor dental hygiene, and dry mouth.

Some of these risks can be mitigated through consistent dental hygiene, including brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing daily. Talk with your dentist about whether you may also benefit from using a mouthwash as an additional preventative measure.

Reducing sugary foods and beverages like sodas also help. Ideally, avoid them for a meal shortly before you are able to brush your teeth. Also, sip plain water to keep yourself and your mouth hydrated. This also helps you avoid the temptation of sugary beverages or acidic drinks like tea and coffee.

Your routinely scheduled dental cleanings and examinations are also an essential part of your preventative dental health strategy. Your dentist may notice issues as they develop and before it gets painful. This is also a great time to check in about your habits and routine.

Diagnosis of an Abscessed Tooth

An accurate diagnosis is the basis of any treatment. First, your dentist will need to examine the tooth and the area around it. They may perform any of the following tests or others:

  • Imaging like an X-ray.
  • Tapping on the tooth or checking whether it is sensitive to pressure.
  • Performing a cold test to confirm that the nerve in the tooth has died.

Be prepared to describe all your symptoms, including those that you are not sure, are related. Inform your dentist about your medical history and any changes to your medication as those may need to be factored in any treatment plan.

If you are diagnosed with an abscessed tooth, please understand that a skilled dentist or endodontist has multiple treatment options. While not every treatment is appropriate or suitable for every patient, your dental professional is likely to find one that will relieve your pain and treat the abscess.

How Do You Treat an Abscessed Tooth?

Depending on the severity of your abscess and other personal factors, there are a few treatment options your dentist may choose from:

  • Drain the abscess: Your dentist will make a small cut to allow the pus to drain then wash the area with a saline solution.
  • Root canal: While many feel uneasy about root canals, the truth is that it is an effective way to save your natural tooth and to relieve the pain.
  • Tooth extraction: While sometimes necessary, this is the last resort since there are many benefits to preserving natural teeth.
  • Antibiotics: In some cases, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics if needed.

Next Steps, Contact Your Dental Professional

We hope this post answered your questions, including, “how do you treat an abscessed tooth?”

As mentioned, if you suspect that you may have an abscessed tooth, call your dentist to schedule an appointment. If your dentist suggests a root canal, consider seeing an endodontist who specializes in treating abscessed teeth.

Keep notes about your symptoms, the intensity of the pain, and where you feel it. Bring a list of any medications you take just in case your dental professional needs it. Most likely, they will ask for this information since they will want to avoid prescribing treatment that could be contraindicated by your other ongoing prescriptions.

The team at Ballantyne Endodontics has had the privilege to treat Charlotte area residents and help them keep their natural teeth and live free of pain.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation or ask your dentist for a referral.