Toothache is not a matter you want to overlook because if it goes untreated for a long time, the pain may escalate, causing an abscessed tooth. When your mouth tissue is injured or irritated, it is exposed to bacterial infection, which creates a painful pocket of pus called an abscess. A dental abscess forms as the body tries to prevent or contain the infection’s spread to other body parts. The pocket of pus can form very fast within a day or two, which means you will need urgent care from an emergency dentistry practice.

At Washington Dental, we understand that an abscessed tooth is a life-threatening situation because it causes intense pain, toothache, tooth sensitivity, bad smell from the mouth, difficulties breathing, and swelling in the face. The infection is an emergency because if not treated on time, it will spread to other areas. If you are in Hawthorne, CA, and experience any of the symptoms of an abscessed tooth, you should immediately contact our emergency dentist. Based on your situation, we will treat you by performing the initial stages of a root canal, opening up the abscess, draining the pus, or using crown cementation to prevent it from spreading.

What is a Dental Abscess?

A dental abscess, also known as tooth abscess, is a collection or buildup of pus in the tooth’s pulp, gums, or jawbone. The abscess forms as a result of bacterial infection. When saliva, food by-products, and the bacteria in your mouth mix, they form plaque that sticks to the teeth and gums if you don’t brush and floss teeth often. The bacteria that cause tooth infection exist in the plaque, which means that if you don’t observe oral hygiene, it might spread to the blood vessels, nerves, and gums, causing a dental abscess. An abscessed tooth causes moderate to severe pain hence the need to seek emergency dentistry services from Washington Dental. Failure to seek treatment urgently can cause the disease to radiate to other areas, making you generally ill.

What are the Different Kinds of Dental Abscess?

The most common forms of dental abscess are gingival, periodontal, and periapical. These types of abscessed teeth are further discussed below:

  1. Gingival Abscess

A gingival abscess is a collection of pus that forms or infects the gingivae but does not affect other parts of the tooth. Take note that this form of abscess only affects the gingival tissue and not the tooth or ligament.

  1. Periodontal Abscess

The periodontal abscess is common among people with gum disease. Periodontal or gum diseases cause your gums to turn red, swell, or feel hot, and this results in the gum around the root of your tooth to shift from the bottom of the tooth. This, in turn, creates a gap that gets dirty fast and is usually difficult to clean. If the tiny gap goes for a long time without proper cleaning, plaque builds up around the opening, causing a bacterial infection. When bacteria infect this gap, close to your supporting bone structure, it forms a periodontal abscess.

Keep in mind that a periodontal abscess can also result from a dental procedure that accidentally causes a periodontal pocket. Damage in the gums, even when you are free of periodontitis, can cause this form of an abscess. Continued use of antibiotics when dealing with untreated gum disease could also cause a periodontal abscess.

  1. Periapical Abscess

A periapical abscess is a pocket of pus that begins at the tip or soft pulp of your tooth. The abscess is caused by prior dental work, untreated cavity, or an injury. Patients who experience this type of abscess have a hole in the enamel. When plaque builds up in this opening, it causes a bacterial infection that spreads to the center of your tooth, also known as the pulp. The bacteria affect the pulp’s nerves and tissues and spread to the bone surrounding the tooth, causing a periapical abscess.

What Causes Dental Abscess?

The leading cause of a dental abscess is a bacterial infection. When bacteria make their way into the gums and the pulp, the body deploys white blood cells to fight the bacteria. In the process, these white blood cells build up, forming a pocket of pus. The bacteria are introduced to these areas causing an abscess when you have untreated tooth decay, cracked tooth, or periodontal disease.

Risk factors

The forms of dental abscess discussed above mainly occur when the bacteria in the plaque produce acids that damage the tooth. However, particular factors increase the risk of suffering a dental abscess. Some of these risk factors include:

Poor Oral Hygiene

Failure to maintain a healthy oral routine enhances the chances of plaque buildup. The plaque contains bacteria that increase the chances of suffering from tooth decay, periodontitis, dental abscess, and other oral related complications.

Consuming Diets Rich in Sugar

Consuming sugary or starchy foods or drinks encourages bacteria growth in plaque, resulting in dental cavities, resulting in dental abscesses.

Dry Mouth

Aging and using specific medications can cause a dry mouth, increasing the risk of having an abscessed tooth.

Injury or Dental Procedure on the Teeth or Gums

Suppose you have previously been injured or undergone a dental procedure that leaves you with a periodontal pocket. In that case, bacteria can make its way into these damaged areas causing a dental abscess.

Weak Immune System

Suppose you have an underlying condition like diabetes or undergoing treatment like chemotherapy. In that case, the chances are high that you will get an abscessed tooth because of the low immune system that makes it hard for your body to fight bacteria causing infections.

How is a Tooth Abscess Diagnosed?

In case of an abscessed tooth, you are likely to experience the following signs and symptoms:

  • Breathing or swallowing problems
  • Inflammation of the face or cheek
  • Sensitivity or hot or cold substances
  • Sensitivity to the pressure of biting or chewing
  • Intense and throbbing toothache that discharges to the neck, jawbone or ears
  • Fever
  • Bad breath or spiteful palate in the mouth
  • Tender, loose and discolored tooth
  • Red and shiny gums
  • Severe and throbbing pain in the affected area
  • Pain that gets worse when you lay down which makes it difficult to sleep

Remember that when the dental abscess gets worse, you begin to feel generally unwell, fever, and difficulties breathing or swallowing. These are life-threatening symptoms hence the need to visit an emergency dentistry practice.

What to do if You Have a Dental Abscess

If you experience any of the above symptoms, you need to visit Washington Dental right away. An abscessed tooth requires emergency treatment, but the treatment shouldn’t be sought from just anyone. Some of the professionals you can seek help from include registered dentists in your locality. In case the dental emergency occurs after-hours, you will get instructions on how to access emergency services after hours.

Similarly, you can reach out to your local clinical commissioning group, who will give you the phone number of your dental access helpline. In the event you have difficulties breathing, you should visit the Accident & Emergency department at your local hospital.

If it’s impossible to see a dentist immediately, visit or contact your family doctor or physician. Although these professionals will not treat the abscess, they can prescribe medications that will treat the symptoms.

How to Relieve the Symptoms While Waiting to See a Dentist

As mentioned earlier, a dental abscess causes intense and throbbing toothache. While you wait to see the dentist, it’s essential to learn how to relieve the pain. You can take ibuprofen for the pain, but if you have a medical condition that prevents you from taking this medication, you should opt for paracetamol.  Aspirin is also an option for relieving pain, although it’s not recommended for children 16 years or younger. If you take one of these painkillers and the pain doesn’t go away, you can combine both ibuprofen and paracetamol, and this will control the pain.

Apart from taking medication, other ways you can relieve the symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Keeping off hot or cold meals and drinks if they cause sensitivity
  • Sticking to cool and soft meals, and if the dental abscess has affected one side of the mouth, you can use the opposite side.
  • Brush your teeth using a soft toothbrush and don’t floss around the area with the abscess

Taking any of the above measures will take care of the symptoms, but this should not give you a reason to delay treatment because the dental abscess might get worse and spread to other parts of the body.

Complications that Result from Untreated Dental Abscess

The home remedies discussed above are not a treatment for an abscessed tooth. Once you have relieved the pain, you should seek treatment because failure to do so will result in serious complications. Some of the complications associated with untreated dental abscess include:

  1. Dental Cysts

A dental cyst is a cavity filled with fluid that forms at the bottom of your tooth root. It forms when an abscessed tooth goes untreated for long. If the fluid-filled cavity gets a bacterial infection, you will need antibiotics and, in worse cases, surgery.

  1. Osteomyelitis

If a tooth abscess goes untreated, the bacteria in it spreads into the bloodstream, causing an infection in the bones called osteomyelitis. This complication is usually associated with elevated body temperature, nausea, and intense pain in the affected bone. Normally, the bone near the abscessed tooth is the one that gets infected. However, as the bacteria radiates in the bloodstream, any bone in your body could be affected.

  1. Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis

When bacteria get into your bloodstream, it causes blood to clot at a large blood vein situated in the bottom of your brain called a cavernous sinus. Note that this condition can be life-threatening at times, and the best way to treat it is through surgery to drain the clot from the sinus or the use of antibiotics.

  1. Ludwig’s Angina

Ludwig’s angina occurs when the bacteria in a dental abscess spreads and infects your mouth’s floor. The infection causes swelling and intense pain below the tongue and the neck. If the condition becomes severe, you may have breathing difficulties. The complication can be treated using antibiotics, and where the airways are blocked, you will require a procedure to open them.

How is Dental Abscess Treated?

If you begin to experience dental abscess symptoms, you should seek medical attention from a qualified dentist. A dentist will focus on draining the pus to clear the infection and relieve the pain. However, if you don’t show any abscess symptoms, the dentist has to perform a diagnosis. Diagnosis involves examining the abscessed tooth and its surrounding areas. Further, the dentist might tap on your teeth, and if it’s sensitive upon touching or applying pressure, it is a sign of an abscess.

Where the dentist suspects the infection might have spread, he or she will suggest an x-ray to identify other areas the abscess might have spread to. A CT scan may also be recommended if the dentist has suspicions the infection has spread to the neck. The CT scan helps determine the extent of the infection to devise the right treatment.

After diagnosis, the dentist can use the following treatment options:

Draining the Dental Abscess

In a dental abscess, the pus contains the infection, so the best way to contain it is by draining the pus. The oral surgeon will administer local anesthesia to numb the tooth or area with an abscess. This means you will be awake during the procedure, but you won’t experience any feeling in the mouth.

If you are suffering from a periodontal abscess, the dentist will make an incision in the gums to drain the pus. In some instances, the dentist might place a small rubber drain on the opening to allow the pus to drain out faster. The pocket pus will decrease as the pus drains out until it empties. Saline water will then be used to clean the area where the pus has been drained.

A Root Canal Procedure

A dentist will perform a root canal procedure if you have a periapical abscess. During the treatment, the dentist will drill into your bad tooth to remove the pulp that has been infected and drain the pus, leaving an opening. To prevent subsequent infection, the dentist will insert a root filling to seal the pulp chamber. Next, the dentist will cap the tooth using a crown to strengthen it and enhance its appearance. Once the tooth has been capped with a crown, all you need to do is maintain regular visits to a dentist and observe oral hygiene, and the restored tooth will last for a lifetime.

Note that a root canal procedure and cementation will require two separate appointments. In the first appointment, the dentist performs a root canal and places a temporary crown. During the second appointment, the permanent crown will be ready for cementing over your tooth. Additionally, although when the nerves and blood vessels in the pulp are removed, the tooth is good as dead, the dead teeth can still serve you for a lifetime if you observe oral hygiene.

Tooth Extraction

If the tooth’s damage is severe beyond repair, the dentist will recommend tooth extraction before draining the pus. After, the pus from the abscess is drained, and your tooth becomes free of infection.

Antibiotics Prescription

If the infection is only concentrated on the abscessed tooth, the dentist might not prescribe antibiotics. However, if the infection has already begun spreading, the dentist will prescribe antibiotics to stop further spread. If you have diabetes or undergoing chemotherapy, the dentist will recommend antibiotics because of your weak immune system.


If you have a periapical abscess that keeps recurring, the dentist may be forced to remove the diseased tissue surgically. The surgery is also performed to reshape the gums and remove the tiny gap that allows for the accumulation of plaque, causing infection.

Removal of Foreign Object

If a foreign object is the cause of a dental abscess. The dentist will remove the object and clean it using salty water.

Note that if you don’t see a dentist immediately, you can rely on OTC medications to manage the pain. Using warm saline water to rinse your mouth can also help relieve the symptoms.

Recovery After a Dental Abscess Treatment

Regardless of how the dental abscess is treated, you can protect your mouth as it heals and avoids any future complications by regular brushing and flossing of teeth. You should use toothpaste with products that address sensitivity, plaque gingivitis, tartar, cavities, and breath. When it comes to flossing, you should use soft floss even though flossing teeth after a dental abscess procedure sounds like a painful experience. Soft floss is gentle on the sensitive tooth, which means you can comfortably floss your teeth without being afraid of experiencing pain.

During recovery, we also encourage patients to use a comfortable brush with soft bristles that can reach the hard to clean areas to ensure that all plaque in these areas is removed, thus keeping your mouth healthy and clean.

Cost of Dental Abscess Treatment

The cost of treatment mainly depends on the type of abscess and treatment your dentist opts for. The economy of your locality and the location of the abscessed tooth also affect the cost of treatment. A root canal procedure for a front tooth costs $960 to $1,350, while that for a molar costs $500 to $1,600. An extraction procedure will cost 75 to 300 dollars, while a dental crown procedure will range from $500 to $2,500.

In the event you have dental insurance coverage, it can cover part or full cost. At the Washington Dental, we have a solid payment plan for people without insurance coverage and cannot pay the full amount out of pocket. That way, you receive timely treatment and cover the cost by making small payments.

Is it Possible to Prevent or Avoid a Dental Abscess?

The right way to prevent a dental abscess is by keeping your gums and teeth clean and healthy. You can achieve this by doing the following:

  1. Visiting the Dentist Regularly

Regular or frequent visits to a dentist can help lower the chances of an abscessed tooth emergency. Based on your teeth’ condition, the dentist will advise you on how often you should go for dental checkups. If you already have an abscessed tooth, the dentist will take the necessary measures to control the infection and ensure that your oral problem doesn’t become an emergency.

  1. Reduce Foods or Drinks Rich in Sugar and Starch

Cutting sugary or starchy foods or drinks, especially between meals or when going to bed, can help prevent dental abscess. These foods feed the bacteria in your mouth, thus increasing the risk of tooth abscesses. For this reason, you should stick to low-sugar snacks, and steer clear of fruit juices and soda.

  1. Don’t Rinse Your Mouth Using Water or Mouthwash

Most people tend to brush their teeth with a protective toothpaste but later rinse the mouth using water or mouthwash. This is not right because it washes away the toothpaste that protects your teeth from the acids released by bacteria in plaque. At Washington Dental, we advise patients to avoid rinsing their mouths with water instead of spitting the excess toothpaste.

You can prevent a dental abscess by using fluoride toothpaste when brushing, spending not less than 2 minutes every time you brush. Additionally, using an interdental brush to clean the teeth and underneath the gingival line can help prevent dental abscesses. Wearing a mouth guard during sports will also prevent injuries that sometimes result in an abscessed tooth.

Find a Los Angeles  Dentist Near Me

If you experience any of the symptoms of an abscessed tooth in Hawthorne, CA, you should understand that the problem will not clear on its own. For this reason, we invite you to contact the Washington Dental at any of our locations in Los Angeles, Lomita, Torrance, and Carson to arrange a meeting. Our dentists will address the problem promptly and save your tooth.