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Alternative namesPeriapical abscess; Dental abscess; Tooth infection; Abscess - tooth
DefinitionA tooth abscess is a collection of infected material (pus) resulting from bacterial infection of the center (pulp) of a tooth.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
A tooth abscess is a complication of tooth decay . It may also result from trauma to the tooth, such as when a tooth is broken or chipped. Openings in the tooth enamel allow bacteria to infect the center of the tooth (the pulp). Infection may spread out from the root of the tooth and to the bones supporting the tooth.
Infection results in a collection of pus (dead tissue, live and dead bacteria, white blood cells) and swelling of the tissues within the tooth. This causes a painful toothache . If the root of the tooth dies, the toothache may stop, but the infection remains active and continues to spread and destroy tissue.
Signs and testsThe patient will feel pain when the dentist taps the tooth. Biting or closing the mouth tightly also increases the pain. The gums may be swollen and red and may drain thick material.
The goals of treatment are elimination of the infection, preservation of the tooth, and prevention of complications. Antibiotics may be given to fight the infection. Warm salt-water rinses may be soothing. Over-the-counter pain relievers may relieve the toothache and fever . Do not place aspirin directly over the tooth or gums because this increases irritation of the tissues and can result in mouth ulcers .
Surgical drainage of the abscess or extraction of the affected tooth may be necessary.
Expectations (prognosis)The infection of tooth abscess is usually curable with treatment. Preservation of the tooth is possible in many cases.
Calling your health care providerCall your dentist if persistent, throbbing toothache or other symptoms of tooth abscess occurs.
PreventionPrompt treatment of dental caries reduces the risk of tooth abscess. Traumatized teeth should be examined promptly by the dentist.
Update Date: 10/9/2003Michael Kapner, D.D.S., Comprehensive and Aesthetic Dentistry, New Rochelle, N.Y., Editor, Ninth District Dental Association. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT