A tooth abscess is a collection of infected material (pus) that collects in a pocket of bone at the end of a tooth root. This infection always begins in the pulp (the nerves blood vessels and connective tissue inside the tooth center) and results from bacterial infection.
When the nerve and blood vessels inside the tooth pulp begin to decay usually due to an untreated cavity or broken tooth it causes the cells to die and produce toxins. This area then becomes infected with bacteria that break down the healthy tissue forming pus. The pus that collects in the center of the tooth eventually spreads to the bone tissue at the end of the root which can then cause toothache. This process is known as tooth decay and is the primary cause of a tooth abscess or also known as a Periapical abscess.
The second most common cause of tooth abscess is tooth trauma. Tooth trauma usually consists of a hard blow to the tooth or a fracture of the tooth from biting on a hard object. This fracturing of the tooth produced openings in the tooth enamel that can allow bacteria to infect the center of the tooth. This Infection may then spread out from the root of the tooth and to the bones supporting the tooth.
Due to the nature of a tooth abscess there are many symptoms to diagnose the problem. The most common symptons of tooth abcess are outlined bellow.Tooth sensitivity to heat and cold A lingering ache Throbbing particularly if it occurs without apparent cause and is unrelated to biting or chewing Pain on biting or chewing Redness and swelling of the gums Discolored tooth Tender glands in the neck Swollen face A bad taste in the mouth for no reason an open draining sore on the side of the gum
If you recognise any of the above sypmtoms it is very important that you consult your dentist as soon as possible as if not treated the consequences of tooth abcess can lead to tooth loss and the spread of the infection to other areas of the body.
Diagnosis of a tooth abscess is usually in the form of a tooth x-ray. Other techniques included using ice or an electrical tester to check the health of the tooh. A normal tooth will feel sensitive to the ice or the electrical stimulation but will feel relief when the dentist removes the ice or current. An abscessed tooth will feel some sensation even when the dentist removes the ice or current.
Once a tooth abscess has been diagnosed by the dentist main method of treatment is root canal therapy. This procedure can get rid of the infection and save the tooth in most cases. In root canal therapy the infected tissue in the central part of the tooth pulp is removed. The area is then sealed to prevent continued infection. If root canal surgery is unsuccessful then the tooth will have to be removed.
Tooth abscess can be avoided by treating cavities early. Good brushing and flossing habits regular dental check ups and avoiding excessive amounts of sugary or starchy foods also help prevent tooth abscess.