What Is a Dental Abscess and How Do You Treat It?

There are many common causes of dental pain: cavities, tooth fractures, damaged fillings, unhealthy gums, and more could all be to blame. Another potential culprit: a dental abscess.

What is a dental abscess?

A dental abscess is essentially a buildup of pus caused by a bacterial infection in the teeth or gums. There are three main types of dental abscesses:

  1. Periodontal abscess: Found in the bone tissue structures of the teeth
  2. Periapical abscess: Found in the “pulp” of the tooth, the soft area inside the tooth where nerves and connective tissue are located
  3. Gingival abscess: Found in the gum tissue

What are the symptoms of a dental abscess?

Pain is the main symptom of any dental abscess. Often, this pain comes on suddenly, and is throbbing, severe, and sensitive to touch. An abscess can also increase sensitivity to biting and chewing, and to cold or hot liquids.

Other symptoms of a dental abscess could include fever, redness, swelling, difficulty swallowing, nausea, difficulty sleeping (due to the pain), or a bad taste in the mouth (especially if the abscess ruptures).

How common are dental abscesses?

A dental abscess is a fairly common problem, especially in people with poor dental care habits. People who eat or drink a lot of sugar may be more at risk as well.

Because an abscess is usually caused by tooth decay and subsequent bacteria, proper dental hygiene, and regular visits to your dentist, are essential to avoiding a dental abscess.

How serious is a dental abscess?

Because an abscess is the result of an infection, the abscess needs to be professionally treated. While temporary, at-home pain relief is acceptable (painkillers, using a soft toothbrush, etc.), it’s important to see your dentist right away if you suspect that you might have a dental abscess.


If left untreated, complications can develop, such as cysts, further infection (including the possibility of sepsis), and painful sinus problems. For these reasons, a dental abscess should be treated quickly and completely.

How is a dental abscess treated?

Treatment will depend on the kind of abscess you have, and on the extent of the infection. Generally speaking, however, the abscess will need to be cut out, and the pus will need to be drained. Some serious or recurring abscesses will require surgery in order to effectively remove them and prevent them from coming back.


Finally, the tooth may be removed if that is deemed to be the best treatment. A dental abscess can be painful and stressful to deal with. That said, it’s important to get quality treatment done—quickly—in order to avoid prolonging your pain or developing further complications.


If you suspect you might have a dental abscess, contact Smile Concepts at 480-951-2800. Our years of experience in keeping smiles happy and healthy can help you deal with your abscess as effectively and comfortably as possible.


We look forward to helping you get your smile back on track!