You’ve got a throbbing tooth and the pain just won’t go away. Is it because you bit down too hard on a piece of hard candy, or could it be a sign of something much more serious? If you’ve got an abscessed tooth and you don’t do anything about it, that pain could turn into a serious medical problem. Tooth infections were the fifth-leading cause of death in 1600s London, and it still happens today. While that’s much less common, the infection in an abscessed tooth can spread throughout your body, causing a wide range of preventable health problems.
The Down and Dirty Details
When a bacterial infection grows around the root of a tooth, it can cause a pocket of pus known as an abscess. This can happen because of an injury, prior dental work or an untreated cavity. While there are other abscesses that occur in the gums next to the tooth root, these are less common. In all cases, bacteria that usually live harmlessly in your mouth migrate to the inner core of the tooth and begin to multiply, causing an infection.
Once the infection takes hold, your immune system tries to fight it off by using white blood cells to kill it. This causes pus to form. There’s obviously no room inside a hard tooth, so the pus pushes out the bottom of the root and forms a pocket in the gum. As you can imagine, the inflammation and pressure from this can cause a severe amount of pain.
The Bad News First
An abscessed tooth can cause a wide range of unpleasant symptoms, including:
- Severe throbbing pain that can radiate to the jaw, ear or neck
- The inability to chew food
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Swelling in the face or in the lymph nodes in the neck
- A moderate fever
- A sudden rush of nasty fluid in your mouth if the abscess ruptures
If you have any of these symptoms, contact your dentist immediately. An abscess won’t get better on its own; it will only continue to grow and become more painful. If there is no dentist available due to the day or time, go to the emergency room for medical care. If you notice any trouble swallowing or breathing, skip the dentist and go directly to the ER. This can mean the infection has spread deeper into your body.
Ignoring an abscess or just treating the symptoms won’t make the problem go away. If it ruptures, the pain might disappear but the need for medical care is still there. If the abscess doesn’t completely drain, the infection can spread to your head, neck and jaw. In the worst cases, the bacterial infection can spread throughout your body, causing life-threatening sepsis.
Abscessed Tooth Treatment
The good news is that if your abscessed tooth is taken care of right away, the danger of serious complications is almost nonexistent. In most cases, the dentist will treat the abscess with a root canal, removing the bacteria from around your tooth. Depending on the condition of the tooth, extraction might be the preferred treatment. You’ll likely receive a course of antibiotics to prevent any remaining bacteria from reinfecting the area, especially if you have a weakened immune system.
Obviously, Prevention Is Better than Treatment
Instead of dealing with all the pain of an abscessed tooth, it’s much better to develop some lifestyle habits that are likely to prevent it from happening in the first place. Some of them include:
- Brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- Drinking fluoridated water
- Replacing your toothbrush four times a year
- Using dental floss on a daily basis
- Eating a healthy diet that limits sugary snacks
- Visiting your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings
Build these healthy habits into your daily routine and you’ll greatly reduce any chance of dealing with a painful abscessed tooth.
When you’re ready to tackle those big dental procedures, only the most skilled Houston prosthodontists will do. Maple Leaf Dental can turn back time, replacing your damaged teeth with artificial ones that even your mother won’t notice. Call us at (281) 497-5558 or email us to get started. Your smile won’t wait forever!
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