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What Are the Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth?

An abscessed tooth is a serious and dangerous dental problem if it is not treated. The symptoms are varied and can be mistaken for other dental problems in the early stages. It is important to see your dentist immediately if you think something is wrong with your teeth.

abscessed tooth

What Is an Abscessed Tooth?

An abscessed tooth is when a pocket of puss appears due to a bacterial infection in your teeth or gums. There are a few different types of abscessed teeth.


An abscess that is at the tip of the root of the tooth


An abscess that is in the gums along the side of the root of the tooth


An abscess in or on the gums, not near the roots of a tooth

Causes of Abscessed Teeth

The most common cause of an abscessed tooth is either an injury to a tooth, a cavity, or dental work that leaves the inside of your teeth vulnerable. Teeth are hard on the outside, but are filled with nerves, connective tissue, and blood vessels.


Periapical abscesses are caused by bacteria. Bacteria can get inside the tooth and cause an infection. As the infection spreads down to the root, there will be discomfort, pain, and possible swelling.


Gum disease can cause this type of abscess. It can also be caused by damage or injury to the gums.


This type of abscess happens when something gets stuck in your gums, such as a toothbrush bristle or popcorn.

Factors That Can Lead to an Abscessed Tooth

The following factors can increase your risk of getting an abscessed tooth:

Poor Dental Habits

If you do not take proper care of your teeth, you are at a higher risk of bacteria that can cause an abscessed tooth. This includes failing to brush your teeth at least twice a day or not flossing.

High Sugar Diet

A high sugar diet causes an increase in risk of cavities, which causes an increased risk of an abscessed tooth.

Dry Mouth

Having a dry mouth increases your risk of tooth decay, which increases your risk of an abscessed tooth.

Symptoms of Abscessed Teeth

Symptoms may start with a sensitive or sore tooth. The toothache will progressively get worse. Your tooth may be sensitive to temperatures, both hot and cold.

Signs and symptoms of an abscessed tooth include:

  • Bad breath
  • Discolored or loose teeth
  • Foul taste in your mouth
  • Swollen or red gums
  • Sensitive tooth
  • Facial swelling or redness
  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Pain when chewing or biting
  • Pain increases when lying down
  • Pain radiating up your jaw to ear or down to neck

Diagnosing An Abscessed Tooth

If you or someone you know has any of the symptoms mentioned above, it is important to contact a dentist. An abscessed tooth does not go away on its own, and the infection can spread to other parts of your body. If left untreated you can develop sepsis.

If your dentist cannot determine if you have an abscessed tooth, they may call an endodontist. Once an abscessed tooth is diagnosed, it is time for treatment.

Treatment For an Abscessed Tooth

There are a few different levels of treatment for an abscessed tooth.

Draining and Cleaning the Abscess

If the infection is localized, your dentist can perform a surgery to drain the pus. Your dentist will make a small cut and allow the pus to drain. Once drained, your dentist will rinse the area with saline.

Your dentist may also prescribe an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory. They may also send you home with saline solution or directions to swish warm salty water in your mouth a few times a day.

Removal of a Foreign Object

If your abscessed tooth is being caused by a foreign object in your gums, your dentist can perform a surgery to remove the item. Once the item is removed, they will make sure any puss has been drained.

Once drained, your dentist will rinse the area with a saline solution. They may prescribe an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory, and may also send you home with saline solution or directions to swish warm salty water in your mouth a few times a day.


Antibiotics are an important step to most treatments. Since most abscessed teeth are caused by a type of infection, you need to make sure the infection cannot spread and worsen.

Tooth Extraction

If your tooth is too damaged, it may need to be removed. Your dentist may determine that the tooth cannot be saved. They will remove the tooth and then go through the process of draining and cleaning the abscess.

Root Canal

If the abscess in your tooth is at the base of the root, you may need a root canal. Your dentist will drill into your tooth in order to get to the abscess, then they will drain and clean the abscess. Once cleaned, your dentist or endodontist will fill the tooth in and either use a cap or crown to finish your tooth.

Preventing Abscessed Teeth

Proper dental care is key to preventing an abscessed tooth. It is also important to see your dentist if you think you have a cavity or chip in your tooth.

Here are some helpful tips for preventing an abscessed tooth:

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day
  • Floss your teeth at least once a day
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Use fluoride
  • Replace your toothbrush or toothbrush head (if electric) every 3-4 months
  • Limit sugary foods and beverages
  • Limit acidic foods
  • Eat foods that are good for your teeth
  • Go to the dentist regularly (twice a year is recommended)

Reach Out to Our Dentist if You Have an Abscessed Tooth

The starting symptoms of an abscessed tooth are very similar to other dental problems. Getting a dental consultation as soon as possible is key to saving your tooth.

Give our dental office a call to schedule your appointment by calling (219) 322-9920.

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Creating Smiles, PC, located in St. John and Valparaiso, Indiana, offers everything you need for a healthy smile and a healthier life. Dr. Kapers and his team can take the anxiety and uncertainty out of dental visits with sedation dentistry, and we're the premier provider of dental implants in the region.