If you have noticed a sore spot on your gum, you may have a dental abscess. This oral infection should get quick attention from a periodontist, and not just because of the pain and discomfort that it causes. A dental abscess can be more dangerous than just an infection, and in some cases could even be deadly. Read on for more information on the causes of abscesses, the treatment, and how to prevent them.

What is a dental abscess?

Simply put, the cause of an abscess is bacteria. We all have bacteria in our mouths, no matter how complete our dental hygiene habits are, and when this bacteria enters the gums through a cavity, it can set up a pocket of pus in the gum-line area. People who have certain underlying conditions can be more prone to abscesses, as well as those undergoing chemotherapy. If you have a gum disease, like gingivitis or periodontitis, you are also more prone to develop abscesses. The little pocket of pus that forms can cause your surrounding jaw areas to also become inflamed, such as the throat, sinus cavities, cheeks, and in some rare cases, your brain.

Symptoms of an abscess.

  • Pain: while usually the first indicator of a problem, it must be noted that some people do not experience pain.
  • Pocket of pus, normally quite visible on the gum.
  • Fever
  • Sweats
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

What treatments can I expect?

Make sure that if you feel extremely sick you go to the closest emergency room or urgent care facility immediately. In some cases, an abscess can cause enough swelling to actually close your airway, causing a life-threatening condition. Additionally, in rare cases, the infection can spread to your brain, causing death.

For more minor symptoms, make an appointment with your periodontist as soon as possible and treat the pain and inflammation with over-the-counter NSAIDs. The periodontist will drain the puss pocket and prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection before it spreads further.

Prevention of abscesses

Alleviating the discomfort and killing the infection is only part of the game plan; you and your treatment professional must identify the cause and take steps to prevent another incident. For cavities or damaged teeth, a filling, root canal or even an extraction may be required. The only real way to prevent this malady from returning is to practice good oral hygiene to keep your mouth and teeth free of bacteria and cavities. It's been said often, but bears repeating:

  • Brush and floss several times a day.
  • Get regular checkups to detect cavities before they cause an abscess.
  • Don't smoke or use chewing tobacco.

Count on your periodontist to get your mouth back to a state of optimum oral health. 

For treatment of periodontal disease and abscesses, contact a dentist such as Hartman Gary DDS MS Limited.