An abscessed tooth can be very painful and, if not treated, can lead to some serious consequences for the patient. For that reason, it’s important to understand what an abscess is exactly, and be able to recognize the symptoms of an abscessed tooth so you can have the condition treated promptly.
Put very simply, an abscessed tooth is one that has become infected and filled with pus. This happens in a tooth when the nerve is either in the process of dying or has already died. There are several symptoms that go along with an abscessed tooth, most of which are very much apparent to the dental patient:
- Severe pain – either shooting, sharp and/or throbbing – that does not subside
- A high fever that cannot otherwise be explained
- Swollen neck glands
- Bad breath and a bitter taste in the mouth
- Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks
- Redness and/or swelling of the gums
- An open, draining sore located on the side of the gums
- Pain when speaking, chewing or opening your mouth
If you notice any combination of these symptoms, it’s important to contact your dentist as soon as possible. Abscessed teeth are just like infections in any other part of the body – they need to be treated right away. If the infection is left untreated, it can spread to the rest of your mouth. Abscessed teeth are considered to be dental emergencies, and you should try to get in to see your dentist as soon as possible.
Until you can get in for your dental appointment, there are a few steps you can take at home that can somewhat lessen the discomfort of an abscessed tooth. These include the following:
- Avoid hot and cold foods and drinks
- Rinse with warm salt water up to three times a day to reduce the amount of bacteria
- Use over-the-counter pain relief medicine (such as ibuprofen) as directed on the label
- Hold an herbal tea bag (already steeped) on the infected area to provide some relief from the pain
While these treatments may provide very limited, temporary relief, it’s extremely important to call your dentist right away if you experience symptoms of an abscessed tooth. Fortunately, your dentist should be able to remedy the situation fairly quickly if the infection hasn’t spread. If the dentist office knows that you are experiencing symptoms of an abscess, the dentist’s staff will make arrangements to get you in for an appointment right away.