Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth has a dental infection. This kind of infection is caused by bacteria that break through the hardest substance in the human body – the outer layer of the tooth called enamel. When bacteria eat through the enamel, we call it tooth decay, or a “cavity.” If left untreated, the decay can spread into the second layer of tooth called the dentin. When the bacteria or decay enter the dentin, you still may not experience any pain. However, when the bacteria travel through the dentin to the inside of the tooth where the nerves of the tooth are, the tooth can become extremely painful. The infection can cause your face to swell up and your tooth to throb so much that it will wake you up from your sleep. As the bacteria continue to multiply inside the tooth, they get trapped inside the nerve canal. Because the tooth in encased in bone the pressure will continue to build. Sometimes the bacteria find an escape route through the bone and into the gum tissue. If this happens, you may notice a pimple on your gums which, when pressed, oozes pus (the infection). You also might complain of a bad taste or odor in your mouth which is due to the pus seeping out from the inside of your tooth.

Can you see an abscess on a dental x-ray?

An abscess usually shows up as a dark spot at the end of the root.

How do I get rid of this abscess?

One of the ways the dentist treats this infection is to do a “root canal” procedure. This treatment involves removing all of the infection inside the tooth, cleaning out the infected canals, and filling those canals with a medicated filling. Once all of the infected nerves and blood supply have been removed the tooth is now technically “dead” and becomes very brittle. (You can think of a root canal tooth like a dead tree branch that snaps easily when bent.) The canals are then filled and the tooth is sealed off to prevent bacteria from entering the canals. To protect and strengthen a root canal treated tooth, the dentist will rebuild the tooth, and cover it completely with a “cap” or a crown.