All you need to know about abscess

Dr. Sharon Robinson

When the inside of your mouth gets hurt or irritated, bacteria may enter and cause an infection, creating what is know as a abscess. Seen as painful swelling filled with pus, an abscess forms a barrier around the infection, as one way your body tries to keep bacteria from spreading.

But left untreated, the infection can damage surrounding bone and teeth. Sometimes a fistula, or hollow tunnel, forms through the bone and skin to allow pus to drain. You might see or feel this opening inside your mouth, or a strange taste in your mouth. Building pressure can also make abscesses painful. Draining the abscess through a fistula reduces the pain, but the infection still needs to be treated.


A gum abscess (also called a periodontal abscess) is usually caused by an infection in the space between the tooth and gum. The infection may occur after food gets trapped between the gum and tooth. In people with severe periodontal disease, bacteria can build up under the gum and in the bone.

A tooth-related abscess (also called a periapical abscess) occurs inside the tooth when bacteria invades the dental pulp — the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. This happens when the tooth’s nerve is dead or dying. This type of abscess shows up at the tip of the tooth’s root, and spreads to the surrounding bone.


Pain will occur in the affected area when biting, and touching the area may be painful. There would be increased sensitivity to cold or hot food and liquids, as well as a foul taste. Patients may experience fever, Dysphagia (swallowing difficulties) and Insomnia

Risk Factors

Not taking proper care of your teeth and gums — such as not brushing your teeth twice a day and not flossing — can increase your risk of tooth decay, gum disease, tooth abscess, and other dental and mouth complications. Also, frequently eating and drinking foods rich in sugar, such as sweets and sodas, can contribute to dental cavities and turn into a tooth abscess.


Abscesses are always serious because the infection may spread to other parts of the body. Call your dentist for an appointment.

If you can see or feel a pimple-like swelling on your gum, rinse your mouth several times a day with a mild salt-water solution. Use 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water. This may help draw the pus out and relieve pressure. Even if the rinse seems to help, you still need to see your dentist as soon as possible.

What your Dentist will do 

Most gum abscesses will heal quickly after the area is cleaned thoroughly, the trapped pus is allowed to escape and the infection is treated. The abscess needs to be cut out (incised) and the pus, which contains bacteria, drained away. The patient will be given a local anesthetic.

Treating a periapical abscess: Root canal treatment will be used to remove the abscess. A drill is used to bore a hole into the dead tooth, so that the pus can come out. Any damaged tissue will be removed from the pulp. A root filling is then inserted into the space to prevent subsequent infections.

Treating a periodontal abscess: The abscess will be drained and the periodontal pocket cleaned. The surfaces of the tooth’s root will then be smoothed out by scaling and smoothing (planning) below the gum line. This helps the tooth heal and prevents further infections from occurring.

Dr Sharon Robinson DDS may be reached at The Dental Place, located at 6738 W Sunrise Blvd, Suite #105, Plantation, Fl. 33313. Dr Robinson may be contacted at 954-792-1857 or visit the website


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