Tooth aches can occur because of a number of issues. A cavity, gum inflammation, gum recession, or an infection in the tooth — all can cause an ache.

Some tooth aches can be severe. These occur when an infection is present, often as the result of decay or a crack in the tooth. When bacteria penetrate enamel, the sensitive nerves inside the tooth can erupt into an infection, known as an abscess.

An abscess is a pocket of pus that has formed inside the tooth or gum tissues. It is a bacterial infection that causes throbbing pain that can quickly progress in its intensity. The pain may seem to come on suddenly and worsen within a short period. In some cases, the pain may extend to the ear, jaw, and neck.

An abscess requires treatment to resolve. The treatment recommended to resolve your abscess will depend on the type of abscess you have. These are:
• Periapical abscess: An abscess that is in the interior of the tooth, in its pulp chamber.
• Gingival abscess: An abscess that is in the gum tissue with no contact to a tooth or its roots.
• Periodontal abscess: An abscess lies in the supporting bone structures of a tooth.

Other symptoms of an abscess may include fever; having a bad taste in the mouth; sensitivity to hot or cold; having difficulty swallowing; and, difficulty opening the mouth.

Treatment for an abscess may involve root canal surgery or periodontal surgery to drain and clean the infected area. While all treatment is performed to the highest degree of comfort possible, the goal is to receive treatment before the problem worsens.

Once treatment has been performed, the following steps will help you heal and keep you as comfortable as possible:

• If antibiotics are prescribed, start taking them immediately. Take them exactly as it says on the label. Finish all the pills even if you feel better before they are gone.
• If pain medication is prescribed, take it as you need it. Don’t exceed the dose on the label. Taking with food or milk will help reduce stomach upset. Avoid driving or operating heavy machinery when taking pain prescriptions.
• Avoid pain medications with aspirin. Nuprin or Advil are good alternatives.
• Use warm saltwater “holds”. Mix 1 teaspoon salt in a glass of warm water. Take a mouthful and pouch it in your cheek over the infection area until the water cools; repeat until the water is gone. Doing this every hour helps pull the infection towards the surface of the gums so it can drain. Doing this at the same time as using the cold packs outside of the mouth enhances the effect.
• Use cold packs on the face over the infected area. Place on face for 15-20 minutes, then leave off for 15-20 minutes.
• DO NOT use heating pads on the outside of the face. This can cause the infection to worsen and spread further.
• Maintain a good, balanced diet and get plenty of rest. Your body needs extra energy when fighting infections. You may need to eat softer foods.
• Avoid smoking until the infection has subsided. If you must smoke, keep it to an absolute minimum.

Our goal is to help you avoid problems from occurring in the first place. To minimize your risk for problems or infections in the mouth, be very committed to a thorough at-home oral hygiene routine and your 6-month dental check-ups. Keep the bacteria levels in your mouth under control with mean you will have less chances for developing a problem that requires the time and cost for treatment.

Not sure about the state of your oral health? Behind on your regular dental exams and cleanings? Call 910-254-4555 to request a no-charge consultation. During this time, we’ll be happy to discuss your needs and goals and answer your questions.


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