An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection. The abscess can appear in different areas of the tooth for a variety of reasons. Patients typically experience a tooth abscess as a result of an untreated tooth cavity, injury, or previous dental work.

Dentists treat an abscessed tooth by draining it and getting rid of the infection. We can usually save your tooth with a root canal, but sometimes the tooth may need to be extracted. Avoiding treatment for an abscessed tooth can lead to serious, even life-threatening, complications.

Symptoms of an Abscessed Tooth 

Some signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Fever
  • Face or cheek swelling
  • Persistent, severe, throbbing toothache with pain radiating to jawbone, throat, or ear
  • Hot and cold sensitivity
  • Difficulty chewing or biting
  • Swollen or sensitive lymph nodes in the neck or jaw
  • Sudden rush of foul-smelling fluid in your mouth and pain relief when the abscess ruptures

A tooth abscess can occur anywhere in the body and is uncomfortable and painful. An abscess becomes noticeable through a skin inflammation, similar to a pimple. If an abscess occurs because of an infection in the mouth, daily eating becomes uncomfortable.

Causes of an Abscessed Tooth

Most often, abscesses in the mouth are the result of a bacterial infection, in which the inflammation spreads freely from the root tip or gum pocket of a diseased tooth. This breaks down the bone around the tip of the root and creates a cavity. Due to the ongoing inflammation, the tooth’s cavity fills with pus, and an abscess develops.

Risk Factors

A few primary factors increase the likelihood of experiencing a tooth abscess. Poor dental hygiene increases your risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth abscesses. Brushing and flossing twice a day goes a long way in preventing tooth and mouth complications.

Additionally, high-sugar diets can contribute to a tooth abscess. Frequent eating and drinking high-sugar foods, such as candy and soda, can contribute to tooth cavities and turn into a tooth abscess.


An abscessed tooth will not go away without treatment. If the abscess ruptures, the pain can decrease significantly, but you’ll still need dental work. If the abscess doesn’t drain, the infection can spread to your jaw and other areas of your head and neck. You could even develop sepsis — a life-threatening infection that spreads throughout the body. Patients with weakened immune systems that avoid treatment risk spreading the infection even more.

When to See a Dentist

Call the specialists at Danville Family Dentistry right away if you have signs or symptoms of a tooth abscess. If your condition worsens and you have trouble swallowing or breathing, please visit an emergency room. These symptoms can mean the infection has spread beyond your mouth and jaw and infected other parts of your body.

Tooth Abscess Prevention     

Avoiding tooth decay is essential to prevent having an abscessed tooth. Take good care of your teeth to prevent cavities. This includes:

Last, the best tooth abscess prevention is visiting your dental professionals at Danville Family Dentistry for regular checkups and professional cleanings. Call us today at 317-745-4400 to schedule your next appointment.

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Disclaimer: The information included in this article is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.