The first thing you need to know about a tooth abscess, is that it’s an infection you don’t want to get. The second is that in nearly all cases, they’re entirely preventable through good dental hygiene. With that in mind, let’s take a look at exactly what an abscess is, and what can happen when an abscess advances, how to avoid one, and what treatment options may look like. An abscess is serious business, and the consequences of not seeking treatment can be traumatic. This is one to share with the whole family.
A Dental Abscess Explained
A dental abscess is an infection of the mouth, face jaw or throat. Typically, infection stems from poor dental hygiene in combination with untreated gum disease or tooth decay, but can arise due to weaknesses in one’s immune system, or in relation to certain diseases. Abscesses can also occur when there is trauma to the mouth.
There are two main types of abscess: periapical and periodontal. A periapical abscess is the more common of the two, and is an infection of the tooth’s pulp that is so progressive in nature it navigates completely through the tooth into the soft tissues of the mouth, sinus cavity, and bone. In contrast, a periodontal abscess is an infection localized to the gum tissue surrounding a tooth. Both are serious infections that can spread throughout the body if not addressed quickly, sometimes with fatal consequences.
Signs You May Have an Abscess
- Swelling anywhere within your mouth, face or jaw
- Difficulty breathing, swallowing or merely opening your mouth
- High fever with no other obvious cause
Staying Clear of Infection
At this point, you understand the complications that can arise from an untreated infection within your mouth. Now, let’s talk briefly about how you can avoid this type of infection.
- Use fluoridated drinking water
- Brush at least twice a day and floss once a day
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet low in sugars (this can be low carb as well)
- Keep your regularly scheduled dental appointments, or schedule one if you have not been to the dentist in some time
- Promptly seek the attention of a dentist if you chip or loosen a tooth (Keep this in mind if you are the parent or friend of someone who experiences a trauma like this as well.)
- Inform your dentist of any chronic conditions you may have so they can be aware of any complications that could arise (i.e. Diabetes, HIV, undergoing chemotherapy or steroidal treatment, to name a few.)
- If you smoke, stop.
What Does Treatment Look Like?
The goal in treating an abscess is to stop the progression of the infection, and restore your mouth to a healthy state. This may involve draining the pus from the abscess and clearing out infected gum tissue, as well as root canal, or even extraction of the tooth. In more advanced cases, treatment would depend on the exact complications presented by the infection.
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