A Crash Course on Dental Abscess and How to Treat it

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A dental abscess is characterised by a collection of pus in your gums, teeth, throat or jawbone. Your mouth is covered by a mass of bacteria that forms a gluey film on your teeth known as plaque. Failing to routinely brush and floss your teeth provides a haven for plaque buildup, and especially with clear braces – it’s not exactly a pretty sight. The bacteria interact with sugars inside your mouth to produce acids which then attack your teeth and gums, causing tooth decay and periodontal disease. Therefore, a dental abscess is largely attributed to bacterial infection in the mouth.

Dental abscesses are painful. You should visit a dentist as soon as possible because abscesses cannot be left unattended. In fact, failing to seek immediate treatment allows the infection to spread to other body parts and make you sick. This article looks at the causes, symptoms and treatment options for a dental abscess.


1. Poor dental health
Failing to brush and floss your teeth every day promotes plaque buildup in your mouth which provides a good environment for bacterial infection.

2. Intake of sugary soft drinks and foods
When you sip sugary drinks, the bacteria in your mouth extract the sugars and create acids which attack your teeth and gums. This may cause tooth decay and eventually cause an abscess.

3. A deep cavity
If you have an open wound in your gums and teeth, bacteria are likely to infect the area leading to an abscess. Always ensure you get cavities treated early.

4. A weak immune system
If you’re suffering from a condition that weakens your immune system such as diabetes or cancer, you are more likely to develop a dental abscess as your immune system isn’t strong enough to counter the infecting agents.

Some of the warning signs that you may be developing abscess in your teeth and gums include:

  • An excruciating pain in the infected tooth or gum that may get worse with time.
  • The intense pain spreads to your jaw, neck and ear on the side of the infected tooth or gum.
  • You’re unable to sleep due to the throbbing pain.
  • Your face becomes red and swollen.
  • Your gums become shiny, red, and inflamed.
  • You develop tooth sensitivity.
  • You develop a bad taste in your mouth and bad breath or halitosis.
  • The affected tooth becomes tender and loose.

You may develop a fever and experience difficulty opening your mouth when the infection spreads.


The location of the source of an abscess will determine what treatment option your dentist is likely to perform on you. Here are some of the likely treatments:

1. Tooth Extraction
This procedure involves removing the tooth that’s infected by bacteria. It is only done when a root canal procedure isn’t feasible.

2. Root canal treatment
Unlike extraction, root canal removes the pus from the root of the infected tooth. Then, the tooth is filled and sealed. It usually takes a number of appointments to complete the treatment as it’s a multi-step process. It will depend on the condition of your abscess and the time available.

3. Incision and drainage
A small cut is created in the gum line to drain away the pus from the affected gum. The wound is then flushed with an antiseptic solution to clean and disinfect the area. Afterwards, the wound is left to heal.

Your dentist will generally use a local anesthetic to numb your teeth and gums for any of the aforementioned procedures. On rare occasions, if local anesthesia does not work, they will opt for general anesthesia and perform the treatment as a day surgery.

Preventive care for dental abscess
The trick to avoiding dental abscess is to keep your teeth and gums free of plaque buildup. To achieve this, consider:

  • Floss in between your teeth and below the gum line every day. This helps to remove any food scraps stuck in between your teeth.
  • Spend a few minutes brushing your teeth in the morning and before bedtime.
  • Avoid of sugary foods and drinks before bedtime. Remember the bacteria in your mouth feed off these sugars to initiate acidic attacks in your mouth, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Make routine visits to your dentist for check-ups before things become worse.

See a good dentist or dental surgeon in Singapore, or an orthodontist if your abscess is related to orthodontic braces, and don’t just wait for the throbbing pain associated with dental abscess to go away. The intense pain linked to your abscess may stop but it may not mean the infection has stopped. When the infection spreads, it may destroy your tooth and gum tissues, causing even worse problems. The sooner you see your dentist, the quicker you’ll get back to your normal life.