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Abscess Tooth Treatment

A dental abscess, also known as an abscessed tooth, occurs when a pocket of pus forms in or around an infected tooth root. Abscessed teeth can happen to anyone, but a history of gum disease, untreated cavities, and cracks in teeth can increase your risk of a dental abscess. Dental abscesses are typically very painful and cannot be resolved without treatment from a dentist. 

Dental abscesses can’t wait for treatment. If you have tooth pain or any of the other symptoms of a dental abscess, schedule an appointment at a Bright Now! Dental office near you. With multiple locations, flexible scheduling, same-day appointments, and emergency dental care available at many offices, we make it easy and convenient to treat dental abscesses and relieve your pain.

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What causes dental abscesses?

Dental abscesses develop when a bacterial infection causes a pus pocket around the tooth’s root. Dental abscesses are caused by the same type of bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay. When this type of bacteria works its way into the inner tissues of the tooth root, known as the tooth pulp, white blood cells are sent to the area to fight off the bacteria. The white blood cells start to accumulate, forming a pocket of pus. 

There are a number of ways that this bacteria can become introduced to the tooth root and lead to an abscess. Three of the most common are: 

  • Cavities and Untreated Tooth Decay: One of the reasons why it is important to always have your cavities filled promptly is to prevent dental abscesses. Cavities begin in the enamel, which is the hard outer covering of your teeth. However, as the cavity grows larger, it eventually extends into the deeper tooth issues. Decay is caused by oral bacteria, so once the cavity becomes deep enough, these bacteria are introduced to the tooth pulp and an abscessed tooth can develop. 
  • Gum Disease: Gum disease is caused by the same oral bacteria as tooth decay. When gum disease becomes severe, pockets may form in the gums, exposing the tooth roots and providing an opportunity for bacteria to enter the inner tooth root tissue and lead to an abscess.
  • Cracked Teeth:  Patients don’t always notice they have cracked a tooth until pain sets in a few days or weeks later, and this delayed pain is typically due to an abscess. If you crack a tooth while playing sports or by biting into something hard, bacteria can accumulate in the crack and cause an abscess.

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What are the symptoms of an abscessed tooth?

The most obvious symptom of a dental abscess is severe tooth pain. Often this pain feels sharp and piercing, but some patients experience more of a dull, persistent ache. The pain may be localized in a single tooth or it may feel like the entire side of your jaw is hurting. For some people the pain only occurs while lying down, making it difficult to sleep. Sometimes the pain may seem to be in a different tooth than the one that is actually infected, which is called referred pain.

In addition to tooth pain, patients with abscessed teeth often experience swelling of the jaw, gum soreness, and extreme sensitivity to hot and cold foods. You might develop a mild fever. If the abscess is close to the surface of your gums, you might notice what looks like a pimple on your gums. This pimple may rupture if you press against it with your tongue, releasing a smelly liquid.

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What are the treatments for an abscessed tooth?

Dental abscesses will not heal on their own; if left untreated, the infection can spread to neighboring teeth, your jaw bone, or even your brain or blood tissue. Abscesses can be detected quickly with dental x-rays, which only take your dentist a few minutes to produce. The sooner your dentist is able to treat the abscess, the greater the chances of saving your tooth and avoiding more complicated problems.

The abscess tooth treatment your dentist recommends will depend on the severity and location of the infection. If a condition such as extensive tooth decay, a large cavity, or advanced gum disease contributed to the formation of your dental abscess, your dentist will also recommend treating them to prevent future abscesses from developing. 

Some of the most common treatments for dental abscesses include:

Draining the Gums

If the abscess is minor and located near the surface of the gums, your dentist may drain the pus by making a small incision in your gums. You may be given local anesthesia to numb the treatment area during this procedure. However, draining alone is not usually sufficient to treat an abscess. It relieves the pressure in your gums and can help ease your tooth pain, but it does not address the infected tissue inside your tooth. This is why gum draining will likely be used in conjunction with another treatment.

Root Canal

A root canal procedure is often required to remove the infected tissue inside the abscessed tooth. Your tooth and gums will be numbed prior to the procedure so the dentist can drill through the tooth to access the pulp and tooth roots. A special suction device or laser will be used to clear away the infected tooth pulp. Then, the tooth roots and the hole used to access them are filled with synthetic material. Finally, the tooth is covered with a crown to prevent future cracks and damage.

Tooth Extraction

If the tooth is too badly decayed or cracked, or if the infection is extensive, a tooth extraction may be necessary. You’ll be given local anesthesia, and then tools called a dental elevator and forceps are used to remove the tooth from your jaw. After the empty socket has had a chance to heal, You can replace the tooth with a crown, bridge, or dental implant, depending on your dentist’s recommendation.


Antibiotics such as amoxicillin and penicillin are often used in conjunction with one of the treatments above. They help your body fight off the bacteria that caused the abscess and also help keep the infection from spreading to other teeth. You’ll typically be prescribed antibiotics for 7 to 10 days. It’s important to take them for the entire prescribed time, even if your dental pain goes away before you’ve completed the treatment.

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How can you prevent dental abscesses?

Dental abscesses can be quite painful and can result in costly restorative procedures or even tooth loss, so it’s important to do all you can to prevent them.

Some of the best strategies to prevent abscesses are:

  • Practice good oral hygiene.
  • Brush your teeth twice per day, and floss daily.
  • Good hygiene helps keep oral bacteria at bay, reducing your risk of cavities, gum disease, and abscesses.
  • Get regular dental checkups.
    • Most patients need to visit the dentist for a checkup and cleaning every 6 months. If you have a history of serious gum disease or tooth decay, you may need to go more often.
    • Regular checkups ensure that minor issues like cavities and cracks are diagnosed and treated before they can progress to an abscess.
  • Wear a mouthguard when playing sports.
    • If you play contact sports, wear a mouth guard during practice and games. This reduces your risk of cracked or damaged teeth and the abscesses that can result.
  • Avoid sugary foods and drinks.
    • Sugary foods and drinks feed oral bacteria, increasing your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth abscesses. Opt for healthy, low-sugar snacks like cheese, veggies, and nuts, and steer clear of fruit juice and soda, going for sugar-free choices like water, black coffee, and unsweetened tea.

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What do dental abscess treatments cost?

The costs of abscessed tooth treatment vary widely based on the treatment your dentist recommends, which tooth is affected, and the severity of the infection, as well as if you’ll need any additional procedures either before or after the treatment. If you have dental insurance, your plan will likely cover at least part of the cost of your abscess tooth treatment, but depending on the insurance provider, you may have to pay out-of-pocket for an implant following extraction or for antibiotics if your dentist prescribes them.

However, you should not avoid treatment for an abscessed tooth because of cost. In addition to our long list of accepted insurances, Bright Now! Dental offers a variety of ways to help you afford the dental abscess treatment you need with flexible financing and payment solutions, CareCredit, and our own OneSmile Dental Plan, which offers members discounts on all dental services. Find out more about how we help make dentistry affordable here.

Affordable Dental Abscess Treatment at Bright Now! Dental

At Bright Now! Dental, we believe everyone deserves the quality dental care and treatment they need for a beautiful, healthy smile. That’s why we offer a wide range of services–including abscessed tooth treatment, root canals, and extractions–that fit both your budget and your busy schedule, and you can receive them all at a single convenient location. To find out more about all the ways Bright Now! Dental helps you protect your oral health, schedule an appointment at the office nearest you today.

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