About Enamel

Abscessed Tooth

Abscessed Tooth: Treatment, Causes, Symptoms

What is an Abscessed Tooth?

An abscessed tooth is a collection of pus that forms inside a tooth or gums. It’s caused by a bacterial infection and is often painful.1

The location can differ: an abscess at the end of the tooth is called a periapical abscess, whereas an abscess in the gum is a periodontal abscess.1

If you think you might have an abscessed tooth, it’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible as abscesses don’t go away on their own – they can also spread to other parts of the body – and always require treatment.1

Symptoms of a Dental Abscess

Symptoms of a dental abscess in your tooth or gum include:1

  • An intense throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum that might come on suddenly and gradually worsen over time.
  • Pain that spreads to your ear, jaw, or neck on the same side as the affected tooth or gum.
  • Pain that worsens when lying down, which can disturb your sleep.
  • Redness and swelling in your face.
  • A tender, discoloured, or loose tooth.
  • Shiny, red, and swollen gums.
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drink.
  • Bad breath or an unpleasant taste in your mouth.
  • Potentially a high temperature (fever) if the infection spreads.

How is an Abscessed Tooth Diagnosed?

When you visit your dentist, they might perform various procedures to examine and diagnose your abscessed tooth, these include:2

  • Asking about symptoms, including pain and tenderness.
  • Looking for facial swelling, altered tooth appearance such as being broken or showing signs of decay.
  • Assessing the likelihood of existing caries and periodontal disease through questions about dental hygiene, diet, previous procedures and other coexisting factors.

How to Treat an Abscessed Tooth

Dental abscess treatment involves removing the source of the infection and draining away the pus. Tooth abscess treatment can be carried out in a variety of ways including:1

  • Root Canal Treatment. This is a procedure that removes the abscess from the root of the affected tooth before filling and sealing it.
  • Tooth Extraction. If a root canal is not an option, the tooth might need to be removed. Incision and Drainage. This involves making a small incision in the gum to drain the abscess (further treatment might be required as this is usually a temporary option).
  • You may also be given antibiotics if you have a severe infection or the infection has spread.

How to Prevent an Abscessed Tooth

Practicing good oral hygiene, and keeping teeth and gums healthy can reduce your risk of developing a dental abscess.3

Prevention methods include:3

  • Using dental floss or interdental brushes at least once a day to clean between your teeth and under your gum line.
  • Brush your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice a day for at least two minutes each time.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 1 to 3 months.
  • Avoid rinsing your mouth with water or mouthwash after brushing your teeth because it washes the protective toothpaste away. Spit out excess toothpaste instead.
  • Visit your dentist regularly, they will decide how frequently they need to see you based on your oral health.


  1. NHS Inform. Dental Abscess. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mouth/dental-abscess. Accessed 21st October 2022.
  2. Nice. When should I suspect a dental abscess?. https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/dental-abscess/diagnosis/diagnosis/.  Accessed 21st October 2022.
  3. NHS. Dental Abscess. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dental-abscess/.  Accessed 21st October 2022.