How to Know if Your Tooth is Abscessed

To many people, a toothache is a toothache. If it hurts, put ice on it until you get around to visiting your dentist. To the trained professional, or to someone who’s ignored his toothache long enough, the situation is more than just a nuisance; it’s a serious threat to good dental health. For instance, one of the most common reasons for sensitive teeth is tooth decay, the disease that causes cavities. When ignored for long enough, a cavity can become an abscessed tooth, at which point your toothache can grow severely worse and the tissues around your tooth can sustain damage.

What Is a Dental Abscess?

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection. Treating the abscess involves draining it, usually with a root canal treatment or through a small incision in the periodontal tissue, depending on the location of the pocket. In severe cases, a tooth may require an extraction to stop the spread of infection, and to save the gums and jawbone surrounding its root from damage. Some abscesses may form on the tooth, or in the gums around it. Different forms of tooth abscesses include;

Periapical abscess

A tooth abscess, or periapical abscess, develops within the soft pulp (nerves and blood vessels) at the center of the tooth, which is connected to the tooth’s roots. Root canal treatment can often drain a periapical abscess without the need for periodontal surgery.

Gingival abscess

A gingival abscess is confined to the soft gingival tissue (gums) and may not affect the tooth or the periodontal ligaments that hold the root in its socket.

Periodontal abscess

Rather than forming on the tooth or in the gum tissue, a periodontal abscess begins in the jawbone structure that supports and sustains your teeth.

The Progression of Tooth Decay

When dental plaque accumulates on your teeth, the germs it contains can infect your teeth and gums. Some microbes release acids that destroy the enamel surrounding your teeth, allowing bacteria to reach the bulk of your tooth, called the dentin. Once tooth decay reaches the dentin, it cannot be reversed, but can be treated with a tooth-colored dental filling. After Dr. Fondriest removes the infected dentin and thoroughly cleans the cavity, he’ll fill the empty space with white composite resin. The resin is tinted to match your natural tooth colored and bonded to the tooth’s structure for an effective seal against further bacterial infection. If the infection reaches the pulp underneath the dentin, however, then an abscess can form and require more complex treatment to drain.

Treating Milder Cavities

The purpose of a dental filling is two-fold—to reinforce the tooth after it’s been weakened by a cavity, and to seal its interior against the bacteria in your mouth. Until recently, metal amalgam was the filling material of choice, offering a durable restoration that easily withstands the pressures of biting and chewing, but that falls short in other areas. Metal shines conspicuously against the backdrop of your white teeth, and it can’t adhere to your tooth’s structure like resin, increasing the risk of reinfection. Composite resin creates a more cosmetically-appealing dental filling, and is less likely to fail.

Preventing Infection with Hygiene

Dr. Fondriest offers a wide variety of techniques to treat cavities in any stage of development, but warns that preventing cavities from forming in the first place is the best way to preserve your healthy tooth structure. You can control the buildup of cavity-causing bacteria by brushing and flossing dental plaque off of your teeth at least twice every day. The American Dental Association also recommends attending a dental checkup and cleaning at least once every six months. During your visit, Dr. Fondriest will carefully inspect your teeth for signs of cavities or enamel erosion and prescribe an appropriate course of treatment to avoid extensive disease or damage.

About Your Lake Forest Dentist:

Aside from providing expert family and cosmetic dentistry services to our community, Dr. James Fondriest also holds highly-respected academic appointments at the Pankey Institute in Key Biscayne, FL, and the Spear Institute in Scottsdale, AZ, and he is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Prosthodontics at the University of Florida Dental School. Dr. Fondriest combines his impressive array of experience with modern technology and caring, compassionate, and knowledgeable staff, and we proudly serve patients from Chicago and all surrounding communities. To schedule your consultation, call our office today at (847) 234-0517.

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