Dealing with a Burst Dental Abscess

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
Woman experiencing the symptoms of gum abscesses bursting.
The major sign that you have a dental abscess is pain.

If you think you might have a dental abscess, it is crucial to contact an experienced dental professional as soon as possible to receive prompt treatment. This type of infection can indicate serious oral health issues. Dr. John Paul Gallardo, a prominent Miami dentist, specializes in treating the symptoms and complications of periodontal disease, including abscesses.

What To Do if a Dental Abscess Burst On its Own?

Dental abscesses are pockets of infection within the teeth and gum line that, if left untreated, can cause significant damage to a person’s health. In this article, we’ll discuss what causes dental abscesses and how to prevent them from occurring.

  1. If you have a periapical abscess, it is important to seek immediate medical attention from your dentist. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the infection and provide the necessary treatment.
  2. Your dentist may recommend root canal therapy to remove the infected dental pulp and clear out the abscess.
  3. Antibiotic therapy may also be prescribed by your dentist in order to reduce the risk of further infection or spread of bacteria.
  4. If you have a gum abscess, your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing to thoroughly clean the teeth and gums and reduce the size of any periodontal pockets that are present.
  5. After any dental procedure, it is important to practice good oral hygiene habits such as brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing regularly, and using an antiseptic mouthwash to help prevent future infections from occurring.
  6. Rinse your mouth with warm salt water several times a day to help reduce swelling and keep the area clean.

So, What Really is a Dental Abscess?

If there is bacteria build up inside the mouth, it can initiate the formation of an abscess infection. A dental abscess is a pus-filled pocket that is painful and causes gum and tooth damage if not treated quickly. In other words, is an odontogenic infection. Issues such as cavities and tooth decay can contribute to periodontal disease and abscesses if left untreated.

Abscesses typically indicate very serious dental issues. It is best to contact a dentist and/or an oral surgeon who can help clear the bacterial infection right away. Once the infection is under control, any additional or contributing oral health issues must be addressed as well.

What causes a tooth abscess?

Several issues can lead to a tooth abscess. They include:

  • Untreated dental cavities or dental trauma
  • Having dry mouth
  • High-sugar diet
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Injury from previous dental surgery
  • Bacteria build-up
  • Decayed teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Parched, or dry mouth
  • Lack of regular checkups
  • An impacted wisdom tooth

A tooth abscess forms beneath the tooth and often develops because the teeth have decayed sufficiently to allow bacteria to enter the pulp in the center of the tooth. It then spreads to the base of the tooth’s root. A patient is more likely to have a tooth abscess than a gum abscess.

Types of Dental abscesses

Although all dental abscesses are infected pockets with the buildup of pus in the oral cavity, there are 3 common types of abscesses, classified based on their location:

Gingival abscess

Gingival abscesses form in the gums and can be extremely painful. It is caused by bacteria that produce an infection between the gums and the teeth. The main cause of a gingival abscess is food particles or unerupted teeth getting stuck in the gum pockets. This type of abscess doesn’t compromise the periodontal ligament or the tooth.

Gingival abscesses usually appear as red spots on the gums. These spots may become swollen and tender if left untreated. If you notice any signs of swelling, pain, or bleeding, see your dentist immediately.

Periapical abscess

Periapical abscesses are bacterial infections that form under the gum line near the root tip compromising the pulpal tissue. The dental pulp is made up of nerves, connective tissues, and blood vessels. These infections often result in swelling and inflammation of the surrounding tissue, causing severe pain and discomfort.

If left untreated, an infected root canal could spread into the alveolar bone and cause serious damage.

A periapical abscess usually occurs after a deep cavity has formed inside the tooth. This cavity may be the result of caries that start on the tooth surface and damage the tooth enamel (the tooth’s hard outer layer) allowing the bacteria to infect the pulp.

Fortunately, if an acute apical abscess is caught early enough, treatment usually involves draining the infection and prescribing oral antibiotics.

Periodontal abscess

Periodontal abscesses usually form when bacteria enter through tiny openings in the teeth and gums. This happens when plaque builds up along the gum line and eventually hardens into tartar. Tartar buildup irritates the gum tissue and leads to inflammation and gum infection. Blood vessels carry blood away from the infected areas, causing swelling and pain. When the inflammation becomes severe enough, the gum tissue begins to die and bone loss occurs.

Periodontal disease is a condition where the gums around the teeth begin to pull away from the roots of the teeth. As this process continues, the gums recede and the space for the teeth narrows, leading to loose teeth and/or tooth loss.

This type of dental abscess usually affects adults who have periodontal disease, but children can get periodontal abscesses if their gums become infected. It’s important to treat periodontal infection early because it can spread to other parts of the mouth and cause tooth loss.

Dental professionals suggest scheduling an appointment immediately if you notice the formation of any type of dental abscess.

Symptoms of a dental abscess

Whether it forms on the tooth or the gum, mouth pain, and tooth pain are the primary symptoms of a dental abscess. If not treated properly, the pain can get worse over time.

Pain from an abscess can start to spread toward the ear or the jaw and down the neck. It usually occurs on the same side of the head as the abscess. If the patient lies down, the pain can worsen.

Dental abscess pain can make it difficult to bite and chew food. Since it is an infection under the tongue’s soft tissues, severe mouth pain can make it hard to swallow food or even open it.

This condition is called Ludwig’s Angina. The gums can become red and swollen. The teeth can also get more sensitive over time. It is diagnosed by needle aspiration and dental X-rays to know the exact location and size of the abscess. Intravenous antibiotics are necessary for pain relief.

As a result of that, jaw swelling is possible as is a fever caused by the dental infection.

One of the other major symptoms of an abscess is bad breath. It happens if the abscess bursts and releases pus and bacterial fluid into the mouth. It can lead to an odor inside the mouth and leave a bad taste.

Another symptom is having a discolored or loose tooth. This causes sensitivity to hot and cold food.

Patients may find it challenging to breathe if the infection causes swollen lymph nodes. It is important to have a dental clinical examination to treat the abscess as soon as possible to avoid other oral diseases.

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What can make a Dental abscess worse?

If patients delay abscess infection treatment, bacteria can spread to major organs and cause various physical complications. A patient with severe swelling, for example, might require surgery to open the windpipe.

An untreated abscess can also lead to osteomyelitis, which is an infection of the jaw bone. In this case, tooth extraction is necessary. A dentist might need to pull out the teeth affected by the infection so that it does not spread further. In such scenarios, the patient can opt for an implant to replace the lost tooth.

Dental implants are not natural teeth that can help you after a medical emergency such as tooth extraction caused by a dental abscess.

Dental abscess risks if left untreated

An abscessed tooth or gum needs proper medical treatment, even if it ruptures. Upon rupture, the severe pain recedes. Failing to drain the abscess can allow the infection to reach the jaws, the neck, and the head. An untreated infection spreads more quickly in immuno-compromised patients.

Other risks of untreated infection include cavernous sinus thrombosis which happens when the infection reaches the blood vessels in the sinuses of the head. As well as osteomyelitis and parapharyngeal abscess. All these conditions need medical care and professional opinion.

Untreated abscess infections can worsen if the patient has poor dental hygiene, does not drink enough water, and eats a lot of sugary foods.

Treatment Options for Dental abscess

An emergency dentist explaining dental abscess rupture to a patient.
Dental abscess solutions may include deep cleaning or root canal surgery

Abscess infections are treatable, especially in the early stages. Usually, the standard treatment involves removing the infection’s source, destroying the bacteria, and restoring the tooth or the gum as needed.

The abscess treatment protocol may include a few options for optimal infection removal. Your dentist will recommend the best course of dental treatment for your situation and may give you home remedies to help you control any residual symptoms such as tooth pain.

Initially, the surgeon will make a tiny cut in the abscess to drain it. They will then use saline water to wash the area. And will perform some of these dental procedures to stop the odontogenic infection:

Root Canal Treatment

If the patient’s tooth root has been infected, the surgeon will need to perform a root canal. First, the dentist will apply a local anesthetic injection to numb the affected area. Then, they will drill into the affected tooth to get rid of the infected pulp and replace it with a synthetic material.

They will then drain the abscess and seal the pulp canal to complete the root canal treatment. However, if the infected tooth is beyond saving, the surgeon might extract it and drain the abscess to remove the odontogenic infection.

Scaling and root planing

If the abscess is in the gum, the dentist then might perform scaling and root planing to thoroughly clean the teeth and gums and reduce the size of the periodontal pockets.

Apart from these dental procedures, tooth infections usually require antibiotic therapy if the infection spread beyond the teeth or gums. Antibiotic treatment and antimicrobial therapy are often prescribed by dentists if the infection is severe enough. Sometimes, however, dental patients must take antibiotics themselves. This is especially true if the patient has a compromised immune system.

Post-surgery at-home remedies include rinsing the mouth with salt water and taking prescribed or over-the-counter pain relievers.

Dental abscess Prevention

Patients are advised to follow preventive measures to reduce the risk of infection after their dental abscess treatment. Appropriate dental care is necessary, which includes using an interdental brush and flossing, using fluoride toothpaste, and regular dental checkups. It is also recommended to eat bland foods to avoid worsening the damaged tissue.

Once a patient identifies their symptoms, they should consult a periodontist who can evaluate their gum health and remove the infection. Additional non-surgical treatments are necessary only for severe infections. They can help reduce periodontal pockets and reduce the chances of further issues.

Abscesses treatment helps to improve the patient’s overall dental health. For patients living in Miami who need help with a dental infection, Dr. John Paul Gallardo is available to treat the symptoms and effects of a dental abscess in his dental office. Call (305) 447-1447 today to schedule an emergency dental appointment for healthy teeth and regular checkups with a dental care specialist.