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Dental abscess

A dental abscess is a build-up of pus in the tooth, gum or jaw due to a bacterial infection.

Dental abscesses are often painful, but not always. You may feel an intense throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum.

A dentist can remove the cause of the infection and drain the pus. Painkillers can help ease the pain until your appointment.

A dental abscess is caused by tooth decay, which can allow bacteria to get into your teeth or gums.

You can help prevent a dental abscess by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and using an interdental brush once a day.

Read more on the NHS website.

Dental abscesses are often painful, but not always. You may feel an intense throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum.

Symptoms of a dental abscess

Symptoms of an abscess in your tooth or gum may include:

If the infection spreads, you may also develop a high temperature (fever) and feel generally unwell.

In severe cases, you may find it hard to fully open your mouth and have difficulty swallowing or breathing.

Read more on the NHS website.

A dentist can remove the cause of the infection and drain the pus. Painkillers can help ease the pain until your appointment.

Self-care

While you're waiting to see a dentist, painkillers can help control your pain.

Ibuprofen is the preferred painkiller for dental abscesses, but if you're unable to take it for medical reasons, you can take paracetamol instead.

Aspirin should not be given to children under 16.

If 1 painkiller does not relieve the pain, taking both paracetamol and ibuprofen at the doses shown in the medicine leaflet may help.

This is safe for adults, but not for children under 16.

It may also help to:

  • avoid hot or cold food and drink if it makes the pain worse
  • try eating cool, soft foods if possible, using the opposite side of your mouth
  • use a soft toothbrush and temporarily avoid flossing around the affected tooth

These measures can help relieve your symptoms temporarily, but you should not use them to delay getting help from a dentist.

Medical treatments

Dental abscesses are treated by removing the source of the infection and draining away the pus.

Depending on the location of the abscess and how severe the infection is, possible treatments include:

  • root canal treatment – a procedure to remove the abscess from the root of an affected tooth before filling and sealing it
  • removing the affected tooth (extraction) – this may be necessary if root canal treatment is not possible
  • incision and drainage – where a small cut (incision) is made in the gum to drain the abscess (this is usually only a temporary solution and further treatment may be needed)

Local anaesthetic will usually be used to numb your mouth for these procedures.

More extensive operations may be carried out under general anaesthetic, where you're asleep.

Antibiotics are not routinely prescribed for dental abscesses, but may be used if the infection spreads or is particularly severe.

Read more on the NHS website.

You can help prevent a dental abscess by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and using an interdental brush once a day.

Read more on the NHS website.

A dental abscess is caused by tooth decay, which can allow bacteria to get into your teeth or gums.

Read more on the NHS website.