Dental Abscess

tooth abscess toronto dentist

Do you think you have a dental abscess? Dental abscesses can feel very swollen and painful and if left untreated, can land you in the hospital. Read more below on how to manage a dental abscess from home until you can visit the dentist or contact us for more information.

Table of Contents

What is a dental abscess?

A dental abscess is a pocket of bacterial infection in the mouth. There are two types of dental abscesses:

  • Tooth abscess: This results from an untreated dental cavity, an injury to the tooth or prior dental work. he infection originates from inside the tooth. The Dentist will treat a tooth abscess by draining it and getting rid of the infection. They may be able to save your tooth with a root canal treatment, but in some cases the tooth may need to be removed. Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can lead to life-threatening complications.
  • Periodontal abscesses: This is where bacteria accumulates in the gums around teeth. Poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, and tooth impactions (such as wisdom teeth) can cause this type of abscess. Treatment can include antibiotics, deep teeth cleaning, periodontal surgery or tooth removal.

What are the symptoms of a dental abscess?

Signs and symptoms of a dental abscess include:

  • Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear
  • Sensitivity to hot, cold, and/or pressure from biting
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
  • Sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in your mouth and pain relief, if the abscess ruptures
  • Swelling in your face, the gum around the tooth, or cheek
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing.

What you should do if you think you have a dental abscess

A dental abscess must be taken seriously. Advanced signs of a dental abscess such as fever, swelling of the face, and difficulty breathing or swallowing could become life-threatening and land you in a hospital emergency room.

If you experience any of the above signs or symptoms of a dental abscess, you should seek the help of a dentist. Until you can visit the dentist, there are a number of things you can do to manage the dental abscess

Pain medications

Pain medications provide a temporary relief of pain and can be freely available over the counter at your local pharmacy. Speak to your local pharmacist or dentist for a recommendation of what is right for you. They may recommend Acetaminophen (Tylenol), Ketorolac, Ibuprofen (Advil) or a combination of the three.

This may surprise you, though: Taking ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) together works better to relieve pain than taking them separately. These are pain medications that are readily available over the counter. Just make sure to not take more than the recommended dose.

Unless you have a health condition that prevents you from taking either ibuprofen or acetaminophen, the absolute maximum dose that I recommend patients take for the worst dental pain is 600mg ibuprofen with 1000mg acetaminophen every 4 to 6 hours.

Some people experience some stomach or abdominal pain when taking the two medications together. In this case, it’s better to alternate when you take each medication.

Keep the area as clean as possible

Until you can see the dentist in person, keeping the problem area free of food debris and dental plaque will help prevent a potential cavity from getting worse, and will remove all irritants that could cause dental sensitivity and pain. We recommend brushing regularly, ideally after every meal, and flossing as well. 

Swish with mouth wash often. Mouth wash has anti-bacterial chemicals that kill bacteria that cause gum infection and tooth decay.

Waterpik Water Flosser is a terrific device for removing irritants around the gum. This is because the powerful water jet can blast away debris and bacteria that a traditional tooth brush has difficulty reaching. One great tip is to put one part mouth wash with water in the well of the Waterpik to get an added anti-bacterial effect of the mouthwash. The Waterpik Water Flosser can be found in your big box department stores like Walmart or Costco or in your local pharmacy.

Dietary Changes

What you eat matters, and it is well known that certain foods and drinks increases your risk of dental decay. Specifically, you want to avoid food and drinks that are sugary, sticky and acidic. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Soda pop
  • Coffee with Sugar
  • Citrus fruits and drinks
  • Candy
  • Dried Fruit
  • Potato Chips

By changing the foods you eat, you change the environment in your mouth that is less friendly towards bacteria responsible for tooth decay that thrive in sugar-rich, acidic environments.

To learn more about these foods and drinks that are harmful to your teeth, read this article: 8 Foods and Drinks that are Bad for Your Teeth.

Avoid chewing on the affected side

If biting on the side with the problem tooth causes pain, it is best to avoid chewing on it. Biting on it could irritate the infected area, causing more pain. And if the tooth is decayed and weak, you risk breaking it with enough biting force. Having a normal, well-balanced diet is important to your health. Choose softer foods, and chew on the opposite side for the time being.

Avoid foods that are too hot or too cold

Keep the food you eat lukewarm or room temperature. Any sudden temperature changes, such as foods that are too hot or too cold may irritate the affected tooth.

Antibiotics requires a doctor’s prescription

If the dental emergency is a dental infection or abscess, antibiotics will help. However, there is a reason why dentists and doctors do not carelessly hand out antibiotics.

First, not all dental emergencies are infections, therefore antibiotics may not help.

Second, antibiotics can have serious side effects, such as life-threatening allergic reactions, diarrhea and vomiting.

Third, if not taken properly under the guidance of a dentist, you can develop antibiotic resistance that can make fighting infections more difficult.

It is therefore important to see the dentist to properly diagnose the dental problem before prescribing antibiotic medication.

Contact your Toronto Dentist at Atlas Dental

Regardless of the dental concern, it is important to consult a Toronto dentist you trust. Atlas Dental is a concierge dental clinic that offers dental emergency service, general dentistry, and cosmetic dentistry in the Toronto area. Contact us today.

How much does an Emergency Dental Visit Cost?

A common question is how much a Emergency Dental Visit costs in Toronto. For more information on emergency dental visit costs, visit our page on Emergency dental services.

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