Dental Abscess: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

It is an infection with pus located around the tip of the tooth root (vertex).

Types and causes of tooth abscess

It is due to bacteria that kill the dental pulp and try to spread outside the dental canal.

Throughout life, everyone can deal with a tooth abscess.

There are two most common types of abscess:

  1. A periapical blemish affects the end of a tooth.
  2. The periodontal abscess forms in the gum tissue.

Statistics reveal that cavities, broken teeth (trauma), severe gum disease (periodontitis), or unsuccessful root canal treatment are the most common causes of dental abscesses.

Pain, redness, swelling, and bad breath are the most common symptoms of dental abscesses that are usually treated with antibiotics such as amoxicillin, augmentin, and Keflex.

Antibiotics are also helpful in preventing tooth infections from spreading to the neck, maxillary sinus, jaw joint, or ear.


Natural home remedies and over-the-counter medications help relieve pain or disinfect the mouth (hydrogen peroxide). To decrease the pressure within the bump, your dentist may decide to drain the tooth abscess and make the pus drain out.

It can be a painful procedure, but you will feel much better once done.

In some cases, risk factors can make the disease worse (diabetes, HIV).

Tooth abscesses during pregnancy or breastfeeding should be treated by a doctor rather than using home remedies.

Symptoms of tooth abscess

Cheeks and cheek redness

The most characteristic symptom of a dental abscess is a swollen cheek. This is due to the accumulation of pus and the increase in blood.

The bloodstream carries the immune defenses (white blood cells), so the infected area swells and turns red or purple.

Hot circular shape and yellow or white bubble gum shape

A small to medium gum-like bump inside the mouth near the root tip of the tooth element. Generally referred to as “yellow or white head.”

Bitter taste in the mouth

When pus comes out of the abscess that drains on its own or due to dental treatment, you may feel a bitter and unpleasant taste.

It is temporary, and to get rid of it, you need to rinse your mouth with water or use an antibacterial mouthwash with chlorhexidine.

Ear, jaw and neck pain

Some patients reported mild to sharp pain affecting their ear, jaw, and neck on the same side as the affected tooth or gum.

Pain is worse at night

This happens due to the position of your body. When you lie down in bed, the blood pressure in the infected tooth increases, pressing against the nerve located in the pulp of the tissue within the dental root canal. To ease the pain caused by a periodontal abscess, you need to put a couple of pillows behind your head.

Bad breath caused by pus

You may have bad breath in your mouth (halitosis) coming from the area of ​​infection due to pus and the smell of necrotic tissue.

Increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks

If a broken tooth or deep cavity causes your abscess, the toothache may appear suddenly or worsen if you drink or eat food that is too hot or cold because the dental nerve is not covered.

Difficulty chewing and swallowing

The abscess symptoms listed above are the most common, but additional signs are to be aware of.

If left untreated, the infection spreads, causing:

  • Fever.
  • Difficulty opening your mouth wide or swallowing: The dental infection affects the jaw joint.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.
  • Nausea.
  • Diarrhea .
  • Headache.
  • Numbness of the jaw.
  • Feeling generally unwell

Diagnosis of dental abscess

The dentist makes the diagnosis of dental abscess by following the steps:

  • The doctor will first collect the signs and symptoms reported by the patient.
  • The second step of diagnosis is the sensitivity test. The endodontist will position himself vertically on the painful tooth using the handle of the dental mirror. An abscessed tooth is usually susceptible to touch or pressure.

At this point, the X-ray examination can show the dentist how far the infection has spread and whether or not a fistula or cyst has formed.

If the infection has already spread to other areas such as the neck or jaw joint, the X-ray is insufficient, and the doctor generally prefers to rely on the CT scan.

How do dentists treat a tooth abscess?

Once the diagnosis is complete and the dentist has the whole clinical picture, it is time to proceed with the most appropriate dental abscess treatment or therapy.

Pus drainage procedure

The first goal of tooth abscess treatment is to reduce the pressure within the swelling.

Draining the abscess requires a small cut of the tissue or a boil. The dentist will then gently squeeze the bump to let the pus out.

As soon as the pus comes out, the pressure decreases, and the pain subsides, but that does not mean that the problem is solved.

The infected and necrotic tissue is still there and needs to be removed to prevent the infection from re-starting.

Root canal treatment or re-treatment.

Since a deep cavity is the most common cause of infection of the pulp within a dental element, the treatment for dental abscesses is the root canal.

After giving you local anesthesia, the endodontist opens a small hole in the enamel of the crown to access the pulp chamber.

With the help of hand tools, the specialist will remove the nerves, blood vessels, dead cells, and infected necrotic material from inside the affected tooth.

To disinfect the root canal and kill bacteria, sodium hypochlorite is usually injected into the tooth and immediately reabsorbed.

The dentist closes the canal with a temporary filling and a prosthetic crown at the end of the canal therapy. Some medications are required to complete the procedure.

When the infection is completely cleared, the hole can be closed with a special filling called gutta-percha.

If the doctor does not eliminate the bacteria from the abscessed tooth, the infection starts again after a while, so a second canal therapy is needed.

This second procedure is called “root canal treatment.”


When the abscess affects the back teeth, such as molars or premolars, it is more difficult to remove all the infected material that accesses the area from the tooth enamel.

Some dentists prefer the apicoectomy approach over the root canal in this particular case. In other words, instead of drilling the crown, the endodontist cuts the gum and makes a small hole in the bone to reach the infected area by accessing the opposite side.

Tooth extraction

If caries ultimately damages the tooth and the dental abscess spreads everywhere, the last possibility is the extraction of the tooth and the disinfection of the hole left by the removed, dental element (the correct medical term is’ alveolar cavity »).

Antibiotic and antibacterial mouthwash

This is controversial in dentistry because some doctors believe that antibiotics are necessary to fight tooth infections caused by an abscess, while others consider them useless and harmful.

To provide you with the complete information on antibiotics for abscess tooth treatment, follow the link above and find an exhaustive list of common antibiotics that your dentist can prescribe for you.

If you are pregnant and suffering from a tooth abscess, inform your doctor about your condition before taking any medication.

Over-the-counter pain relievers and medications

  • Ibuprofeno (Advil o Motrin).
  • Paracetamol.
  • Antibacterial mouthwash.
  • Listerine.
  • Corsodyl.
  • Chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash (0.2%).

Tooth abscess treatment and home remedies

Saltwater oral rinse

Saltwater is the oldest and most widely used abscess home remedy because it works primarily in the early stage of tooth infection.

So, as soon as you recognize the first symptoms of the abscess, you can put a tablespoon of salt in half a glass of warm water and mix until the salt is completely melted.

Rinse your mouth for 2 minutes, paying attention to focus on the infected area. The properties of salt help kill bacteria and promote healing.

Homemade Hydrogen Peroxide Mouthwash

Hydrogen peroxide is an affordable home remedy for natural tooth abscesses. It contains hydrogen and oxygen mixed in different diluted percentages (the most common is 3%).

Hydrogen peroxide is well known for its antiseptic and antibacterial properties, ideal for treating an abscess.

How to use it?

Just fill half a cup of coffee with 50% hydrogen peroxide and 50% plain water and mix the two ingredients.

After brushing and flossing, use the prepared solution to rinse your mouth, as you usually do with daily mouthwash.

Be careful not to swallow hydrogen peroxide because it can cause side effects such as diarrhea and stomach pain.

To see the first results, you need to repeat the procedure three times a day for one week and then twice a day.

Oil extraction as a treatment for dental abscesses

Oil extraction is an additional effective home remedy for removing tooth abscess pain and infection. The procedure is straightforward and must be repeated several times throughout the day for two weeks.

You should only put half a teaspoon of good essential oil in your mouth and swirl it around your teeth and gums.

There is a chemical attraction between the essential oil and the bacterial membrane, so they remain trapped in the oil and are eliminated from the oral cavity as soon as you spit it out.

What essential oil should you buy?

There are several types of oil that you can use, but the most used to throw away are olive oil, sesame, or coconut oil.

To calm the sore spot. Coconut oil can also gently massage the painful gum tissue with your finger.

Whiskey, vodka, or pure alcohol rinse

Rinse your mouth with whiskey or plain alcohol. This is a grandmother’s abscess remedy indicated to relieve pain caused by a dental infection. Alcohol exerts its anesthetic and antibacterial effect, relieves pain, and partially kills bacteria.

Alcohol should not be swallowed; instead of holding it in the mouth for 30 seconds, then spitting it out. Many doctors are against this remedy because of the irritating effect of alcohol on the oral mucosa.

Colloidal Silver (CS) for proven dental abscess treatment

Colloidal silver is an effective home remedy for abscessed teeth. It can be used locally or internally.

For topical use, you can choose between:

  • Rinse your mouth with a tablespoon of this type of silver for 4 to 6 minutes every 5 hours or more frequently in case of severe pain.
  • Spray: you must apply it directly to the painful area.
  • Abscess plug – Place a small amount of CS on gauze and apply to the tooth or swelling that causes pain.
Black tea bag

Why can black tea be a proven abscess home remedy?

The point is that black tea contains polyphenols and tannins that have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial effects, so applying a teabag to abscessed teeth can do double duty.

First, the tannins reduce dental infection so that your pain decreases. Second, the ingredients in black tea will kill the oral bacteria that cause cavities and bad breath.

How does black tea work?

You must first put a black tea bag in a cup with warm water for 5 minutes.

When the bag’s contents are entirely wet, please put it on the abscess area and gently press the bag.

The tea and its healing ingredients can reach infected tissue and begin to relieve pain, as well as kill bacteria.

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is known as a home remedy for an abscessed tooth. Its anti-inflammatory and disinfectant properties help keep pain and inflammation under control.

Laser therapy for abscessed tooth infection

As mentioned above, the most crucial goal in treating a tooth abscess is eliminating the infection. This means that the dentist had to ensure that no bacteria or infected tissue had been left in the tooth canal.

Using manual or mechanical dental instruments, this goal is challenging due to the often irregular root shapes (“S” shape).

This is where the laser makes a difference and can be the ultimate method of treating abscessed teeth.

Unlike conventional dental instruments, the laser has two main characteristics:

  • It can attack aerobic and anaerobic bacteria that cause dental infection and decontaminate the surrounding area.
  • It has a bio-stimulatory effect: it accelerates the healing response with minimal pain and swelling after the procedure.

Laser therapy in the treatment of dental abscesses represents a complementary procedure that completes the conventional protocol and is not an alternative to the standard.

How long does it take for an infected tooth to heal?

This is a tricky question because it depends on the severity of the infection, how damaged the tooth is, and the dental abscess treatment that your dentist deems necessary.

After the drainage procedure that lets out the pus, the swelling of the cheek begins to decrease, and the pain. If you follow the doctor’s instructions, there should be little or no drainage from the abscess after two to three days. All sores should heal in 10-14 days.

Even if the lump, swelling and sore disappear, it does not mean that the periapical pathology is resolved. You still need medicine or surgery to save your tooth or have it removed.

Can an abscess in the mouth kill you?

The percentage of people who died from a tooth abscess is meager; at the same time, an explanation is required.

The dental abscess is not the direct cause of death, but the infection at the base of the dental pathology is.

In 2007, a 12-year-old Maryland boy died because bacteria from an abscess infected his brain.

So yes, if you are experiencing tooth pain caused by an infection, the infection itself can be fatal if left untreated.

Practices to prevent tooth and gum abscesses

Preventing tooth abscesses and tooth decay, and gum disease is directly related to proper oral hygiene practices.

  • Best oral hygiene practices.
  • Brushing twice a day (not too hard).
  • Flossing once a day, especially before going to sleep.
  • Consider using fluoride toothpaste which gives your teeth extra protection against tooth decay.
  • Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash (chlorhexidine gluconate is excellent for keeping bacteria in check).
  • Avoid bad habits.
  • Give up smoking.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Don’t drink or eat sticky feet (soda, high-sugar sports drinks, potato chips, dried fruit, high-calorie snacks).
  • Routine checkups and professional cleaning at the dentist.

We all know that all health problems detected early can be easier to solve. That is true for tooth infections as well.

Therefore, we strongly recommend that you visit your dentist’s office at least twice a year for a complete oral exam and an X-ray exam to discover hidden cavities and professional teeth cleaning.

If you still have your wisdom teeth, you should pay more attention to them because they can cause a gum infection that can lead to an abscess.

Remember that the information provided here is intended to inform and educate you about dental abscesses. If symptoms and signs of a tooth abscess appear, do not self-medicate.

Go immediately to the medical care center or a dental specialist so that your case is treated most suitably and thus avoid any undesirable consequences.