Common symptoms of a tooth abscess are a toothache with a throbbing or shooting pain, fever, tooth sensitivity to hot or cold drinks, bad breath and swollen neck glands. Other symptoms are inflamed gums, swollen upper or lower jaw and an open ulcerated sore in the gum.
Severe tooth decay commonly causes a tooth abscess, but tooth trauma when it is chipped or broken, and gum disease can also lead to tooth abscess. When the protective barrier provided by the tooth enamel is breached, bacteria infect the pulp of the tooth from where infection can further spread to the root of the tooth and the underlying jaw bone. As the pulp contains nerve endings, sharp, continuous extreme pain can result.
Treatment of an abscessed tooth involves taking antibiotics to control the pathogenic bacteria and draining the abscessed tooth. The dentist may drain it through a root canal procedure, a tooth extraction if the damage is extensive and the tooth is beyond saving, or an incision into the swollen gum. In the case of a root canal, the abscessed tooth may be fitted with a crown to strengthen it. A severe tooth abscess that is left untreated can progress into more serious complications such as osteomyelitis, cellulitis and even life-threatening sepsis. Good oral hygiene, regular dental checkups and seeking immediate dental attention in the event of a tooth trauma help reduce occurrence of a tooth abscess.