Tooth Abscess Stages – Causes, Symptoms, Treamtents

Excerpt: Tooth abscesses can be caused by a number of things, but the most common are dental cavities...
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Tooth abscesses can be caused by a number of things, but the most common is dental cavities. If left untreated, an infected tooth will spread bacteria to other teeth and gums, which can lead to further infection and even tooth loss. 

What is a Dental Abscess?

dental abscess is a localized infection of the tooth that occurs when bacteria accumulates in the pulp chamber, which is the soft tissue surrounding the tooth. The pulp chamber can become infected when there is a break in the oral barrier, such as through a tooth extraction or decay.



An abscess can cause intense pain in and around the tooth, it may cause pus to discharge from a tooth. The infection can spread to other areas if left untreated.


Please see medical attention if you notice these symptoms:


  • Severe pain or pressure on one or more teeth
  • Discharge from the tooth
  • Swelling or redness around the tooth
  • Loss of appetite or weight loss
If you have any questions about your dental health, please speak with your dentist.
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Periodontal Abscess

A periodontal abscess is an infection of the gum tissue. It is the most common type of oral infection in adults, and can easily spread to other parts of the body.

Periapical Abscess

This abscess forms at the root of your tooth. You will see a pocket of puss that developed due to bacterial infection (will appear as a bump on your gums).

Symptoms of a Dental Abscess

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention:


  • Sudden onset of pain in one or more teeth
  • Fever
  • Redness or swelling around the tooth or adjacent gums
  • Acid or pus coming from the tooth

5 Dental Abscess Stages

Your dental abscess will go through multiple stages, it will never get better without treatment, and you should never try to treat a dental abscess on your own.

Enamel Decay

This is caused by bacterial build-up on your teeth which will result in cavities. Some cavities may be minor, and won’t break through the enamel. However, if a cavity is not minor, given enough time, it will penetrate the enamel and the inner pulp will be infected.

Dentin Decay

Dentin is the next layer of your tooth that sits beneath the enamel. This layer will often appear as yellowish in nature. If the decay progresses to this layer, you will most likely notice pain and increased sensitivity. If you do have sudden unexplained tooth pain or sensitivity you will want to see a dentist before it is too late.

Pulp Decay

The inner pulp of the tooth houses the parts of the tooth that need to be protected, like the nerve and blood vessels that supply the teeth with nutrients. Severe pain is a common symptom that your inner pulp has been infected. Eventually, this infection will cause the tooth to die due to a lack of nutrients and blood flow.

Abscess Formation

This stage is when you may see visual symptoms, you may notice a little bump or swelling on your gums. Do not try to pop this abscess, the swelling is caused by a build-up of puss underneath the skin. If you notice this you need to make a dentist appointment, or emergency appointment right away. This is a sign that the infection has made it to the jaw bone and you may be in danger of tooth loss and more pain.

Serious Complications

If the abscess is still left untreated, it could result in:



  • Fevers
  • Unavoidable tooth pain
  • Severe sensitivity
  • Tooth loss
  • Sepsis
  • Fatality – You can die from a dental abscess if it is never treated at all.

What Causes Dental Abscesses

Dental abscesses are more common in people who do not brush, floss, and use fluoride regularly. Other risk factors for tooth abscesses include:

Physical Trauma & Damage

If you suffer from injuries, dental damage, or deep tooth cracks, bacteria can spread to deeper parts of the teeth. This can cause an abscess.

Underlying Medical Conditions And Or Medications

People who have weak immune systems or are on medications for serious health conditions are at a higher risk of developing abscesses. This includes people receiving cancer treatment, those on steroids, and diabetics.

Sugary Diets

Sugary and processed foods result in teeth becoming unhealthy. Without proper brushing, teeth can decay from diseases like plaque and calculus build-up. If a tooth decays, it may form an abscess later on.

Dental Abscess Treatment Options

There are three treatment options available for certain types of infections. 

Draining The Abscess

If an abscess is treated early and hasn’t progressed, it is typically recommended that it be treated by drainage. Dentists make incisions into the abscess then clean the infected area and prescribe antibiotics.

Root Canal Therapy

When the bacteria spread and an abscessed tooth has been found, a root canal is necessary in order to save the unfortunate individual’s tooth. This procedure can also happen if a person is enduring a peri-apical abscess and their tooth needs to be extracted and cleaned. After that, they put a dental crown on top of the work.
It takes one to two appointments for root canal treatment, but it can be three visits with an endodontist and four visits if you’re seeing a general dentist. The number of visits will largely depend on if you want a tooth crown to finish off the procedure.

Dental Extraction

The surgical extraction of your tooth might be necessary after receiving an injury or disease to an infected tooth, or when the decay reaches a certain size. The anesthesia is administered during the procedure, and your tooth is removed using small instruments. After extraction, the socket will be covered with sterile gauze, in order to reduce the risk of bacteria entering it.

Antibiotics – Which Ones Are Best?

Antibiotics used to treat dental abscesses include amoxicillin, penicillin and metronidazole. These antibiotics can help solve other types of infections, such as those that occur in the mouth. Your dentist may prescribe a treatment plan that includes antibiotics for you.

Advice On Managing The Pain

You can take ibuprofen and other similar painkillers to help alleviate the pain of a dental abscess before you visit your dentist. You can also take them in combination with antibiotics that you are prescribed by your dentist after treatment.

Complications Of A Untreated Dental Abscess

Dental abscesses can lead to very serious complications if left unchecked. If you ignore the swell on your tooth or wait too long before treatment, you may experience these symptoms.

Tooth loss

Root canals are not always the best treatment option. If a tooth becomes severely infected or weak, removing and replacing it with an artificial tooth and dental crown may be necessary.

Bone Infection

Leaving a tooth untreated creates an infection that impacts the surrounding bones.

Sinus infections

Sinus infections are caused by bacteria present in the mouth. As a result, people can experience pain in both the mouth and the sinuses.


This is a response to a severe infection that can potentially be fatal.

Brain abscess

A dental abscess can travel to the brain. That’s rare but it can happen if the infection becomes severe enough. A serious infection of the brain requires emergency treatment.

Dental Abscess – Can You Prevent Them?

Practicing good oral hygiene will help prevent the development of any oral disease and conditions. Tips for preventing a dental abscess include:

  • Brushing your teeth with fluoride twice a day. Use a brush that’s appropriate for your brushing style for the best results.
  • Replace your toothbrush or head every 3 to 4 months.
  • Floss daily with dental floss, floss sticks, or a water flosser.
  • Use a mouth rinse with fluoride or an antiseptic daily to prevent plaque buildup and tooth decay.
  • Make sure to stay on top of professional dental care. Receive a dental exam and teeth cleaning every six months.
  • Reduce sugar in your diet by eating a balanced, healthy diet.

Frequently Asked Questions

An abscessed tooth won’t go away on its own. If an abscess isn’t treated, it can spread to other parts of your body.

It’s never a good idea to try and press or squeeze a dental abscess. Doing so can lead to more serious infections in your mouth.

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