Dental Abscess Overview
Exams and Tests for a Dental Abscess
A doctor or dentist often 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
- Many people who have cavities or toothaches can take NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve), or pain medicine such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) as needed for relief of pain. Check with your doctor first is you have any medical problems or if you take any other medicines.
- 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 usually 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 help prevent tooth decay and dental abscesses.
- Remember to brush and floss as directed by your dentist.
- 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.