Medical · May 26, 2021

Tooth Abscess: Symptoms, Causes & Prevention

A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus around a tooth that results from a bacterial infection. An abscess can occur on different parts of the teeth for various reasons.  A periapical abscess occurs at the top of the tooth root, while a periodontal abscess affects the gums surrounding the tooth root.

Below is all you should know about a periapical abscess.

What is a periapical tooth abscess?

A periapical tooth abscess usually results from an untreated dental cavity after dental work or injury. If you have a periapical tooth abscess, the dentist will drain it and remove the bacteria to get rid of the infection.

A root canal treatment can also save a tooth abscess, but some people may require tooth removal. An untreated tooth abscess can also cause severe and life-threatening complications.

Symptoms of tooth abscess

Some signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Sensitivity to cold, hot foods and drinks
  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to biting or chewing pressure
  • Intense, persistent, and throbbing toothache that may spread to the neck, ear, or jawbone
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Swelling in the cheek or face
  • Swollen and tender lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck
  • Sudden foul-tasting and foul-smelling salty fluid in the mouth, and pain when the abscess ruptures

When you should see a doctor

If you experience any symptom or sign of a tooth abscess, ensure you see your dentist immediately to get treatment for a tooth abscess. If you have a swollen face or fever and can’t see your dentist immediately, visit an emergency room. Ensure you go to the emergency room if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing.

These symptoms may be a sign of an infection that has spread to your jaw and surrounding tissues or other body parts.

Causes of tooth abscess

A periapical tooth abscess usually occurs when bacteria enter the dental pulp, the inner part of the teeth containing connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves.

Bacteria can penetrate the pulp of your tooth through a crack or chip that spreads to the tooth root or a dental cavity. The bacterial infection would lead to inflammation and swelling of the root tip.

Risk factors

Factors that increase the risk of developing tooth abscess include:

  • Poor dental hygiene

A poor dental hygiene routine can increase the risk of different dental problems. When you do not brush your teeth at least twice daily and fail to floss, you may end up with tooth abscess, gum disease, tooth decay and other dental issues.

  • High-sugar diet

Frequently eating foods and taking drinks high in sugar, such as sodas and sweets, increases the risk of having dental cavities, which may develop into a tooth abscess.

  • Dry mouth

A dry mouth increases the risk of experiencing tooth decay and dental abscess. Dry mouth is usually due to ageing and the side effects of certain medication.


A tooth abscess requires treatment to prevent complication. It may rupture, and the pain would reduce, but you still need to visit the dentist for treatment. If the dental abscess doesn’t rupture, the infection may spread to the jaw and other parts of the neck and head. An untreated abscess may also lead to a life-threatening infection called sepsis.


Preventing tooth decay can help prevent a tooth abscess. You can avoid tooth decay by:

  • Drinking fluoridated water
  • Replacing your toothbrush at least every 3 – 4 months or when the bristles become frayed
  • Brushing at least two times daily using fluoride toothpaste
  • Visiting your dentist regularly for professional dental cleaning and check-up
  • Eating healthy meals and limiting the intake of sugary drinks and foods
  • Limiting between-meal snacks
  • Using an interdental toothbrush or floss to clean between the teeth every day
  • Using a fluoride or antiseptic mouth rinse for extra protection against tooth decay

You can visit at to book your appointment for tooth abscess treatment.