Abscessed Tooth (cont.)
Michael G. Sherman, DMD
Dr. Sherman received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1999. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Dr. Sherman was accepted into the research fellowship program at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. After the fellowship program, Dr. Sherman was accepted into Tufts School of Dental Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts. Following dental school, Dr. Sherman was accepted into the postgraduate endodontic program at Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Sherman is currently in private practice in the field of endodontics in San Diego's North County.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- What is an abscessed tooth?
- What are the symptoms of an abscessed tooth?
- How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?
- How is an abscessed tooth treated?
- What are the complications of an abscessed tooth?
- How is an abscessed tooth prevented?
- Find a local Doctor in your town
How is an abscessed tooth diagnosed?
Diagnosis is usually achieved based on clinical symptoms or radiographic presentation. An X-ray can reveal bone loss along the ends of the dental roots indicating an infection or abscess. Clinical examination can also confirm the infection and may include pressure tests or simulation of the dental nerve with temperature (sensitivity to warm or cold foods or fluids).
How is an abscessed tooth treated?
Once a tooth has an abscess, the treatment options consist of root canal therapy to clean and remove the infection or tooth extraction. Root canal therapy is a predictable and usually pain free procedure. If a wisdom tooth is involved, most commonly the tooth is removed. The prognosis for an abscessed tooth is good, especially if caught early. A dental professional may opt to place the patient on antibiotics at the time of treatment in order to prevent the infection from spreading further within the soft and hard tissue. Antibiotics are not always indicated and usually are prescribed at the discretion of the treating doctor. Warm compresses and pain management with anti-inflammatories are the best home remedies; however, the infection cannot be properly or fully addressed without seeing a dentist. Do not place aspirin directly over the gum tissue, this can lead to direct damage of the surrounding tissue.
What are the complications of an abscessed tooth?
If the abscess goes untreated, the infection can progress to a cellulitis which can be a serious and produce a life-threatening medical condition such as Ludwig's angina. Signs of a cellulitis or severe infection can include a fever, general malaise, and swollen lymph nodes in the neck or a draining sinus tract. If the abscess causes difficulty swallowing or problems breathing, immediate medical attention should be obtained. Bilateral swelling of the mandible, a condition known as Ludwig's angina, is a serious condition requiring hospitalization and IV antibiotics.
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