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What causes dental abscesses?

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Quick Answer

A dental abscess occurs as a result of a bacterial infection of the soft dental pulp, according to Medical News Today. The condition occurs when plaque stays on the teeth due to poor dental care, allowing bacteria in the plaque to spread to the teeth and gums.

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Full Answer

A dental abscess is a condition in which pus builds up in the teeth or gums, says Medical News Today. There are three types of dental abscesses: periodontal abscess, periapical abscess and gingival abscess, which affects only the gum tissue. Although a periodontal abscess may attack people who do not have periodontitis, it typically occurs when a person develops periodontal pockets in the teeth as a result of periodontitis, which causes gum inflammation. The swelling results in the separation of the periodontal ligament from the tooth base, leading to formation of a periodontal pocket in which bacteria accumulate. Periodontal pockets can also be a side effect of dental surgery.

A periapical abscess originates in the tooth's soft pulp when the tooth enamel decays, exposing the soft layer beneath it to pulpitis, which is a pulp infection, explains Medical News Today. Over time, pulpitis exposes the alveolar bone, which is the bone that supports the tooth, to bacterial infection. This leads to a periapical abscess.

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