Dental Abscess

What is a dental abscess?

A dental abscess is a condition where a collection of pus (an abscess) forms inside the tooth, the gum or the bone which holds the teeth in place (the jaw). It occurs due to a bacterial infection. This usually happens when an infection in the mouth goes untreated, or is not completely treated. This is a common condition, and can occur in people of all ages. Symptoms of a dental abscess are severe pain in the mouth and jaw, swelling of the gum or face and possibly fever. This condition is treated by removing the infected tissue from the tooth and draining any pus. Antibiotics may also be required. Most people recover well following a treatment for a dental abscess.


Dental abscesses are caused by a bacterial infection in the teeth. These infections can spread into the gum, bone, and other tissues around the affected tooth. People with poor dental hygiene are more likely to develop a dental abscess. Additionally, people with some medical conditions, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system, may tend to get dental abscess more often compared to others.


The most typical symptom of a dental abscess is a throbbing pain in the tooth and in the gums and bones around it. The pain comes suddenly, worsens gradually, and often extends to the cheek, ear or neck. The tooth may become loose. The gums and face are often swollen and reddened on the side of the abscess. Teeth might also become overly sensitive to heat and cold temperatures. Some people may also have a bad breath and fever. Uncommon symptoms may include difficulty swallowing or even difficulty breathing.


Diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and physical examination. An X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan of the face may help to confirm the diagnosis.


Taking paracetamol or ibuprofen can help with the pain of a dental abscess. Treatment of a dental abscess requires drainage of the pus around the tooth. Sometimes the infection can be treated with a root canal, where the infected tissue is removed from the inside of the tooth. In some cases, the tooth needs to be removed. If the infection is severe, antibiotics might be needed to treat the infection.


Maintaining good dental hygiene, having regular dental check-ups and receiving treatment for any type cavities or infections in the mouth can prevent dental abscesses.

Other names for dental abscess

  • tooth Abscess