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Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus that forms at the tooth’s root or supporting tissue and bone. This condition—also called a dental abscess—results from gum disease or tooth decay and causes mild to severe pain. If untreated, an abscessed tooth can potentially become life-threatening.  

 Keep reading to learn more about tooth abscesses, what causes them, common symptoms, and how dentists treat them.

What Is a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that forms in the later stages of tooth decay when bacteria infect the dental pulp or into the gums, bone, or tissue. The bacteria often invade through an untreated cavity or crack in the tooth. This condition can cause swelling, bleeding, and severe pain.

If left untreated, a tooth abscess can harm other parts of your body or cause sepsis, a potentially lethal blood infection.

What Does an Abscessed Tooth Look Like?

A dental abscess occurs in the advanced stages of tooth decay. The stages leading up to the abscess include:

Decayed Enamel: Damage to the enamel, the outermost tooth layer, may cause sensitivity to hot or cold sensations.

Decayed dentine: Decay to the dentin layer beneath the enamel may create a visible cavity. Some people will experience sensitivity or pain.

Decayed pulp: Bacteria entering the innermost area of the tooth can attack the tooth’s nerve. This can cause extreme pain. A person with a damaged nerve may also feel intense pain, then no pain at all.

Abscess development: The abscess forms when the bacteria infect the tooth pulp or deeper in the gums or supportive bone. This can cause redness, swelling, and pain near the tooth or gums, and may also trigger a fever.

Diagram displaying the interior of an abcessed tooth in between two other teeth

A severely decayed tooth can break or fall out and can leak bacteria into other parts of the mouth or body.

Woman with natural curly hair tied in a bun and a soft pink top thinking in front of a deep blue background

What Causes a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess typically results from untreated tooth decay, an injury, or dental work. The bacteria enter the tooth or supportive tissue, leading to an infection.

Tooth decay: Cavities occur when bacteria break down sugar on the teeth using an acid that decays the tooth enamel, dentine, and pulp.

Damaged teeth: Chipped or cracked teeth can allow bacteria to invade the tooth and leak into the pulp. Impact on a tooth can damage the pulp but not cause a visible crack. 

Gum disease: Periodontitis is an infection of the tooth’s supportive tissue. Untreated gum disease can allow bacteria to spread.

Abscessed Tooth Risk Factors

Various conditions and behaviors can increase the risk of experiencing tooth abscess, including:

Smoking: Smokers are nearly twice as likely to get a tooth infection than nonsmokers.

Poor dental hygiene: Not brushing twice a day and not flossing can result in gum disease and tooth decay, increasing the risk of tooth abscesses and other issues.

High sugar intake: Bacteria that break down sugars from food and drink release an acid that eats through the tooth’s hard surfaces, allowing bacteria to attack the tooth pulp.

Dry mouth: A dry mouth creates an environment where bacteria can spread and cause tooth damage.

Weakened immunity: Diseases or medication can weaken the immune response, making it more difficult for the body to fend off infections.

What Are Tooth Abscess Symptoms?

Tooth abscess symptoms include:

Severe and persistent pain in
the tooth, jaw, neck, or ear

Sensitivity to hot
or cold temperatures

Flush of rank-smelling and tasting fluid in the mouth from a ruptured abscess

Swelling in the face, cheek,
neck, or lymph nodes

Rank odor in the mouth


Pain or discomfort while chewing

How to Treat an Abscessed Tooth?

Failure to treat an abscessed tooth can have severe consequences. The infection can spread to other teeth or cause sepsis, a life-threatening blood infection. 

At Habersham Dental, your dentist will focus on relieving pain and curing the infection. After some preliminary x-rays, we will be able to see the full scope of your condition. 

Dental checkup and dental cleaning on a man with short fade, medium facial hair, and protective goggles

Draining the abscess: This procedure includes making a small incision in the abscess to drain the pus, then cleaning the infected area with saline.

Root canal: Your dentist will drill into the abscessed tooth to drain the pus, extract the infected pulp, and then fill the pulp chamber. You may also receive a crown to strengthen your tooth.

Extraction: Your dentist may pull the tooth if it is too damaged and drain the abscess.

Medication: You may need to take antibiotics to stop the infection from spreading or if you have a weakened immune system.

Object removal: If an external object in your body causes the abscess, your dentist will extract it.

Contact Habersham Dental for Tooth Abscess Treatment

A tooth abscess can cause severe pain and potential complications. If you experience any symptoms associated with an abscessed tooth, contact the knowledgeable and experienced team at Habersham Dental. We will provide you with the best dental care possible and support you every step of the way.

See why we are the premiere destination for abscess tooth treatment in Savannah. Schedule an appointment now.