Besides the obvious fact that they can be extremely painful, untreated tooth infections can also kill you, although obviously that is in the most extreme cases only.
We also know people often procrastinate until a tooth problem causes unendurable pain. But in the case of dental infection, waiting until this point can be very dangerous.
This danger is of particular concern to us at Dentarana, where we strive to educate all our patients bout the importance of preventive dental care. The truth is prevention is worth a pound of cure – it costs less and it can prevents life-threatening conditions.
Types of dental abscess
There are three general categories of oral abscess: gingival, periodontal and periapical. The categories are based on where the abscess forms.
Gingival abscess. A gingival abscess is also known as a gum abscess, and it forms on the surface of the tissue at the gum line of the teeth (gingiva). A gingival abscess is often a result of external damage to the gum.
If caught early, an abscess on the gum is relatively easy to treat. If left untreated, however, it can progress to a periodontal abscess and cause greater oral damage.
Periodontal abscess. This category of abscess occurs in the gum pockets. Here, there is nowhere for pus to drain, and the abscess easily spreads into the surrounding tissue and jaw bone.
Periapical abscess. These begin in the pulp of the tooth, usually as a result of decay. If tooth decay erodes the protective enamel and dentin of the tooth, bacteria can invade the nerves and tooth pulp (a condition known as pulpitis). This type of abscess can also result from cracked teeth, or poor or deteriorating dental treatments in the tooth.
Pus from periapical abscesses may be visible at the gum line, but it normally gets into surrounding tissue, which become inflamed and sensitive.
Wisdom tooth abscesses are a particularly common type of periapical abscess, as the teeth in the back of the mouth are more difficult to clean.
Dangers of dental infections
Regardless of how an abscess forms, it must be treated to prevent the following threats to your smile and dental and overall health:
Tooth Loss: If infection spreads to the gums and the underlying bone, tooth loss can follow. The infection damages supporting structures causing tooth instability. In some cases in which the infection results from a cavity and the decay spreads, a tooth may need to be extracted.
Sinus Infection: An untreated tooth abscess can cause infection within the sinuses, as they are located directly above the upper jaw.
Brain Abscess: This is one of the worst cases. Your teeth are close to your brain. Because of this proximity, a neglected dental abscess can travel to the brain and pose a serious threat. In some cases this can lead to a coma and require surgical intervention. Bacterial infections including meningitis also become more likely.
Heart Infection: If an infection travels to the heart, bacterial endocarditis becomes a concern, which calls for immediate medical intervention.
Ludwig Angina: Untreated dental abscesses are a common reason patients develop Ludwig Angina, a serious infection that compromises parts of the face and lower jaw. This condition can block the airways and lead to death.
What dentists can do to treat dental infection
Dentists can often tell if you have an abscess by simply tapping on your tooth. An infected tooth or abscess is sensitive to pressure. Even a simple tap can cause pain. A follow-up X-ray determines if there is infection present in the tooth pulp.
If Dentarana evaluates your tooth and discovers that an abscess or infection is present, we will take several steps to treat it:
- An antibiotic regimen may be prescribed.
- The tooth may be drained of pus. In most cases this immediately ends tooth pain. If the infection is present between the tooth and the gum, an incision and draining is performed. The area is cleaned with saline. If the infection is in the tooth, the abscess can be drained, but the tooth will require treatment to ensure the infection does not remain, or re-establish itself.
- A root canal may be performed in the case of infection at the tooth root. Your dentist will drill into the infected region, remove damaged tissue and drain the pus. The emptied canal is then filled with a sealant and the tooth crowned with a cap of porcelain or metal.
And, of course, your best at-home defense against dental abscess is a good oral health routine!
DentArana is your partner in health
DentArana provides Family Dentistry in Arana Hills. Our goal is to make quality dental care affordable, and help you achieve maximum oral and overall health! DentArana can help you with all your dental needs, from clean and scales to bridges and dentures. We offer late and Saturday hours!
New Patients Specials
– Pay No Gap for Exam, Clean and Scale (with any health insurance) for under 17
– No Health Insurance: Only $99 for Exam, Clean and Scale (under 17’s)
Call (07) 3351 3366 or visit us at hop 5 Patricks Place, Cnr Dawson Parade & Patricks Rd in Arana Hills.