Dental Abscess Overview
Exams and Tests for a Dental Abscess
A doctor or dentist can determine by a physical exam if you have a drainable abscess. X-rays of the teeth may be necessary to show small abscesses that are at the deepest part of the tooth.
Treating a Dental Abscess at Home
- People who have cavities or toothaches can take NSAIDs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), as needed for relief of pain and inflammation.
- If an abscess ruptures by itself, warm water rinses will help cleanse the mouth and encourage drainage.
Medical Treatment for a Dental Abscess
The doctor may decide to cut open the abscess and allow the pus to drain. Unless the abscess ruptures on its own, this is the only way that the infection can be cured. People with dental abscesses are typically prescribed pain relievers and, at the discretion of the doctor, antibiotics to fight the infection. An abscess that has extended to the floor of the mouth or to the neck may need to be drained in the operating room under anesthesia.
Dental Abscess Follow-Up Care
With a dental abscess, as with each and every illness, comply with your doctor's instructions for follow-up care. Proper treatment often means reassessment, multiple visits, or referral to a specialist. Cooperate with your doctors by following instructions carefully to ensure the best possible health for you and your family.
Prevention of a Dental Abscess
Prevention plays a major role in maintaining good dental health. Daily brushing and flossing, and regular dental checkups can prevent tooth decay and dental abscesses.
- Remember to brush and floss after every meal and at bedtime.
- If tooth decay is discovered early and treated promptly, cavities that could develop into abscesses can usually be corrected.
- Avoidance of cigarette smoking and excess alcohol consumption can help too.
Outlook for Dental Abscesses
The prognosis is good for the resolution of a small dental abscess, once it has ruptured or been drained. If the symptoms are improving, it is unlikely that the infection is getting worse. Proper follow-up care with your dentist is mandatory for reassessment of your infection and for taking care of the problem tooth.
- Care might include pulling the tooth or having a root canal performed on it.
- Dental abscesses that have extended to the floor of the mouth or to the neck can threaten a person's airway and ability to breathe and may be life-threatening unless they are properly drained.