A tooth abscess is a localized accumulation of infection that typically causes a throbbing pain and starts at the root of the tooth. Untreated tooth decay, gum infections or a cracked or broken filling are all causes of abscessed teeth.
If you suspect you have an abscessed tooth or gum abscess at the onset of pain, it is critical that you seek urgent emergency dentist treatment as soon as possible. Not treating your abscessed tooth quickly can cause the infection to advance and invade bone and surrounding tissue. Although rare, leaving your abscessed tooth untreated could potentially lead to death.
Tooth Abscess Symptoms
Symptoms of dental abscess include:
- Intense, throbbing pain
- Onset of pain is sudden but it may worsen gradually over a few hours or day
- Pain can spread to the lower jaw, ear and neck on the same side of the abscessed tooth. This may cause facial swelling.
Other symptoms a tooth or gum abscess include:
- Foul taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
- Tenderness of the tooth and surrounding area
- Sensitivity to hot or cold foods
- Feeling sick in general
- Difficulty opening the mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Disturbed sleep
Seek immediate medical attention if any of the following occur:
- Fever of 38°C (100.4°F) or above
- Facial swelling
- Breathing problems
- Pain does not respond to painkillers
Tooth Abscess Pain Relief
Pain caused by a tooth abscess or gum abscess may disappear after a while but try not to be fooled. Taking too long to get a proper dental treatment can result in severe complications and even death. Therefore, see a dentist as soon as you experience a toothache. While you are waiting for your dentist’s appointment, try the following self-care methods to relieve pain:
- Avoid foods and drinks that are too hot or cold. The tooth decay has likely already invaded the dentin of your tooth, increasing your tooth’s sensitivity to extreme temperatures.
- Avoid highly acidic and sugary drinks and foods. Both are triggers that increase tooth sensitivity.
- Take OTC pain medications. Read the package instructions carefully and talk to your GP or pharmacist about the recommended dosage. Never place pain medication on the tooth or gum tissue as this can burn your tissue.
- Floss between painful teeth. Flossing will remove plaque and food debris and help relieve dental abscess toothaches.
- Rinse with salt water. Doing this two to three times a day can help relieve pain from a dental abscess. Saltwater is also a great antiseptic to remove bacteria.
- Use cloves or clove oil. Clove oil or eugenol is found in most health stores, especially in dental products due to its anaesthetic and antiseptic properties. Using clove oil at home can help “numb” your tooth and relieve pain. Simply soak a piece of cotton in clove oil, blotting out any excess on paper, and hold it over your aching tooth for about 10 seconds. Do not swallow the oil.
- Seal your tooth temporarily. Your dentist may apply a temporary filling but you can even find an over-the-counter one to seal the decay at home until your dentist’s visit.
Sleep with your head elevated. The nerve inflammation of a tooth abscess can be quite painful and it is often what causes the pain in the first place. Elevating your head while you rest or sleep can take away some of the pressure from the nerve, relieve inflammation and reduce toothache.