How to Treat Tooth Infections and Dental Abscesses

Tooth infections refer to a disease of the teeth or the surrounding gum or jaw area. A tooth infection can be very painful and if not treated, can lead to more serious conditions that require more complicated interventions.

Tooth Infections:

Common tooth infections, which are localized in the living pulp tissue, come from tooth decay or irritation of the area. The main symptoms are intense pain, irritation and swelling.

When an infection begins, the immune system detects bacterial activity in the tooth area and sends antibodies to fight the bacteria. Inside the tooth this system can break down because of the small space inside the pulp. If this happens, a more serious infection can develop – one which requires treatment with antibiotics. In the most severe cases, antibiotics will not be enough to fight a pulp infection and dental surgery may be required.

Tooth Root Infections:

An infection of the tooth root happens when the nerve inside the pulp gets infected. Severe pain and swelling are common symptoms and immediate medical treatment is necessary. The doctor will take a dental x-ray to determine the extent of the infection and the condition of the surrounding bone and soft tissue.

The gums around the affected teeth are examined to be sure there is enough healthy bone around the infected tooth. If the gums need care, they are cleaned using specialized scalers and currettes to ensure a bacteria free environment.

Next, the doctor will check whether the tooth has a healthy nerve inside the pulp. If the nerve is damaged or infected, it will need to be extracted.  To do this, the tooth is drilled after an anesthetic is applied to the area and then a root filling is inserted.

Dental Abscesses:

Dental abscesses are infections of the mouth area, face, jaw or throat which start as a simple cavity or tooth infection. Untreated, an abscess can affect the bone and soft tissues of the mouth when bacteria grow uncontrolled and spread causing root damage and even tooth dissolving.

Abscesses can be caused by poor dental health such as improper cleaning and brushing, or from underlying conditions such as autoimmune disorders. Trauma can also lead to tooth decay and infections.

Treating an abscess is difficult and often involves a root canal or other surgical intervention. Antibiotic treatment is generally ineffective and is only used as an adjunct to the surgical procedure.

Tooth infections and abscesses can be prevented by practicing good oral hygiene.  Proper brushing and flossing in addition to regular visits to the dentist will help prevent cavities which is the primary way that bacteria infect the teeth.   

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