Is your tooth throbbing and persistently keeping you up all night? Perhaps you could be having an abscessed tooth. This is simply an infection that spreads to the tip of the root and around the root of your tooth. The infection spreads from the inner chamber, also known as "pulp chamber". The nerves and the blood vessels in the inner chamber are collectively referred to as pulp.

An abscess forms because the tooth has lost the ability to fight bacteria. As the bacteria multiply, the infection spreads. In severe cases, the abscess collects to form pus made of tissue debris, bacteria and dead white blood cells.

Causes of a Tooth Abscess

One of the main causes of an abscess is a dental cavity. This happens when the decay extends deep into the root that it gets to the pulp chamber.  Pulpitis is examined by a dentist and characterised as irreversible or reversible. An irreversible pulpit implies that the pulp is dying. Once the pulp dies, the abscess spreads to the gum, ligament and jaw bone. A reversible pulpitis describes a pulp that is irritated, but can be reversed. 

Signs and Symptoms

  • The affected tooth turns dark. This is as a result of the pulp leaching into the tooth layer causing the discoloration.
  • Pain when pressing the tooth or when eating. Severe pain is experienced when the abscess spreads into the root. At times the pain is so severe to be treated with pain medication.
  • The abscess may manifest itself in form a pimple. The pimple appears on the gum and is sometimes filled with pus. This pimple is medically referred to as "draining fistula". If left untreated, the pimple can rapture and ooze pus.
  • Bad odour and bad taste can also be a sign of infection.

It is also very crucial to note that at times, an abscessed tooth may fail to show symptoms. There may also be no pain. This is because the tooth has lost the ability to feel stimuli. However, the infection may still be spreading. A routine radiographic exam may reveal the presence of an abscess.

Treatment of an Abscess

For an adult, treatment begins with clearing the infection. The dentist examines the extent of damage. Treatment may involve oral antibiotics and draining the tooth. Once the infection has been cleared, restoration begins. In most cases, a root canal procedure is recommended. A root canal will seal the inner space. An inert rubber material known as guttapercha is fitted to seal the previously infected area.

If you have questions on whether or not you have an abscessed tooth ask a dentist in your area.