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Symptoms and Signs of Dental Abscess

Doctor's Notes on Dental Abscess

A dental abscess is a localized bacterial infection inside of a tooth, in the gum tissue, or in the bone surrounding a tooth. Poor dental care is a risk factor for developing a dental abscess, since growth of bacteria from a dental cavity is a primary cause. Certain medications, poor diet, and alcoholism are other factors that increase the likelihood of getting a tooth abscess.

Pain at the involves site is the primary symptom of a dental abscess. There is a collection of pus at the infection site that may rupture and drain into surrounding tissues. Other associated signs and symptoms can include redness and swelling of the gums, mouth or face. Jaw pain, fever, chills, sweats, and malaise may also accompany the condition.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Dental Abscess Symptoms

Symptoms of a dental abscess typically include

  • pain,
  • swelling,
  • redness of the mouth and face.

Often one or more teeth will be very sensitive to pressure. With an advanced infection, one can experience other complications such as:

If it remains untreated long enough, the infection can spread through the bone and damage adjacent teeth, which would require additional treatment.

The signs often found in conjunction with a dental abscess may include, but are not limited to:

  • deep cavities,
  • gum inflammation,
  • oral or facial swelling,
  • tenderness with touch,
  • pus drainage, and
  • sometimes limited ability to open the mouth (difficulty or pain upon opening the mouth very wide or when swallowing).

If the abscess has spread to a superficial area, there is typically tenderness to palpation (touch) of the infected area. Dental abscesses may range from mild to severe. They may be associated with no symptoms or with severe symptoms. Depending on a number of factors, the abscess may range from chronic to acute, and stable (not changing) to rapidly spreading. The infection can in some cases spread beyond the teeth and bone through the bloodstream to other areas of the body where it can damage organs and even be life-threatening.

Dental Abscess Causes

The cause of these infections is a direct growth of bacteria from within the pulp spaces of a tooth (endodontic) or on the deep root surfaces of a tooth (periodontal) into the supporting soft tissues and bones of the face and neck.

Dental Images of Cavities, Dry Sockets, Gingivitis Slideshow

Dental Images of Cavities, Dry Sockets, Gingivitis Slideshow

Besides smiling, laughing, and communicating, the mouth and teeth serve important functions in the body. Teeth and saliva break down food, making it easier for the stomach to process it further for absorption by the intestines. The teeth provide structural support for the face. The mouth and throat contain immune cells that help protect the body against pathogens. Taking good care of the mouth and teeth is an essential part of maintaining good health. Here is a guide to some common oral health problems and procedures.

Dental (Oral) Health : Test Your Dental Hygiene IQ Quiz

Dental Health Quiz

What causes tooth decay?

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.