An infected tooth or infection of the gums is known as a dental abscess. Just as any infection, a dental abscess can cause a wide range of dangers if left untreated.
Most people have their abscessed teeth treated as the pain caused by an abscess can be extremely intense, even to the point of interfering with daily life. Others, however, don’t feel a great deal of pain or choose to suffer through the pain hoping that the problem will go away on its own.
At West Ryde Dental Clinic we know that the avoidance strategy is extremely dangerous, and we urge our patients to learn more about the threat of dental infection/abscess.
Why can dental infections be deadly?
Most people aren’t aware that an infection in the mouth can spread easily. In fact in worst cases such an infection can migrate to the brain or other parts of the body. Once this has happened the infection is extremely dangerous and may even be untreatable. Even something as simple as a cracked tooth can put you at risk if infection spreads to the tooth pulp and beyond. Often, people are unaware that they have a chip or crack in their tooth that can allow bacteria inside. By the time the chip or crack is identified, the damage is already done.
What are the types of dental abscesses?
There are two main types of oral abscesses– periapical, and periodontal abscesses.
- Periapical abscess (tooth abscess). These abscesses occur within the tooth, and are usually caused by untreated dental cavities, an injured or broken tooth, and in some cases they are even caused by prior dental work.
- Periodontal abscess (gum abscess). If food becomes trapped between the gum and tooth, bacteria can build up underneath the gum and in the bone. This can cause an abscess on the gums.
Symptoms of a dental abscess
Symptoms of a dental abscess are usually easy to identify and tend to be similar. It is important to know that that some abscesses are painless. Painless abscesses, luckily, often still show identifiable symptoms such as gums and cheeks that are swollen. Should the abscess occur in a tooth that has undergone root canal treatment, pain may be entirely absent as the nerve is already dead.
Here are a few things to look out for:
- Extreme, sharp, or throbbing pain
- Increased pain when pressure or heat is applied to affected area
- In extreme cases, swollen lymph glands and facial swelling
- Bad breath
- Trismus – difficulty opening the mouth
- General feeling of unwellness
What health problems do dental abscesses cause?
Let’s turn to a discussion to the different complications associated with these types of infections:
Spread of Infection: Any infection can spread if it isn’t treated. If nothing is done to halt a dental infection, it can spread to nearby teeth, the jaw, neck, and (in rare cases) the brain.
Sinus Irritation: Because of the close quarters between your teeth and sinuses, a tooth infection can trigger sinus irritation.
Ludwig’s Angina: Infections and inflammation are partners in crime. Ludwig’s Angina occurs when a skin infection spreads into the throat, causing swelling in the air passage, which can lead to trouble speaking, breathing, weakness, and swelling in the neck.
Meningitis: An inflammation of the membranes near the spinal cord and brain, meningitis can be triggered by not getting medical care for a tooth abscess before the infection spreads.
Jaw Infection: Just as a tooth infection can spread from the tooth to soft tissue in the mouth and throat, it’s also possible for the infectious bacteria to travel into the jawbone itself. In this case, swelling and tenderness are usually apparent.
Preventing dental abscesses
Following good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing twice daily, flossing once daily and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash can go a long way towards preventing tooth abscesses.
Some other measures you can take include:
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or when the bristles become frayed
- Eliminate sugary snacks and eat only healthy foods
- Consider using an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth rinse to give your teeth additional protection against tooth decay
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings.
Treatment at West Ryde Dental Clinic
The goal of treatment is to eliminate the infection. To accomplish this, we may:
- Open up (incise) and drain the abscess.
- Perform a root canal.
- Pull the affected tooth.
- Prescribe antibiotics.
The West Ryde Dental Clinic Advantage
At West Ryde Dental Clinic, our service and our dentures are 100% personalized for you. All our dentists are highly motivated and accredited practitioners with graduate degrees from the University of Sydney. As well as the dentists, the supporting staff at West Ryde Dental Clinic are highly dedicated and experienced to ensure each visit with us is comfortable as possible.
Awesome Promotions for New Patients
General Check-up, Scale and Clean, X-rays and Fluoride treatment (with any health insurance)