Tooth Infection Treatment

When bacteria gets into the root of a tooth, it can cause a buildup of pus. This kind of infection is called an abscessed tooth, or a periapical abscess.

These infections don’t go away on their own, so it’s important to see your dentist if you think you have one. If it’s not treated, it can spread to your jaw or other areas of your head or neck.

Tooth Infection Home Care

You can do some things to ease your symptoms:

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen for the discomfort.
  • Try to chew on the side of your mouth away from the tooth.
  • When you brush your teeth, use a toothbrush with soft bristles.
  • Don’t eat foods that are hot or cold.
  • Put a cold compress on your jaw where your tooth hurts.
  • Use a rinse of water and salt or diluted hydrogen peroxide.

Tooth Infection Medical Treatment

If you have an abscessed tooth, your dentist may recommend one of the following treatments, depending on how serious the abscess is:

  • If you have a simple abscess, your dentist, or a specialist called an endodontist, can do a root canal to get rid of the infection and hopefully save the tooth.
  • If the abscess is large, it may need to be drained first before a root canal is done. Your dentist or endodontist will make a small cut in the gum to let the pus out and then rinse the area with saline (salt water). They also may put in a small rubber drain to keep the area open and draining while the swelling goes down.
  • After the tooth is sealed back up, your dentist can then put on a cap, or crown, as a top layer to protect the tooth and make sure you don’t get another abscess.
  • If your tooth can’t be saved, your dentist might need to pull it, then drain the abscess to get rid of the infection.

Your dentist also might give you antibiotics to make sure the infection doesn’t spread to other teeth or other parts of your body. The most common ones used for an abscess include:

How much you take and for how long will depend on the type of antibiotic and your specific situation. But it’s always important to take them exactly as your doctor prescribes.

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Tooth Infection Prevention

Good dental habits can help keep your teeth and gums healthy:

  • Brush with fluoride toothpaste twice a day for at least 2 minutes each time.
  • Don’t rinse your mouth with mouthwash or water immediately after brushing -- that can take the protective toothpaste off your teeth.
  • Floss at least once a day to clean between your teeth and under your gums.
  • Cut down on sugary and starchy drinks and foods, especially between meals and right before bed.
  • Get a new toothbrush every 3 or 4 months or when the bristles on the one you’re using look frayed.
  • Use an antiseptic or fluoride mouth rinse to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Drink fluoridated water.
  • See your dentist for regular checkups.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on August 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

NHS Choices: “Dental Abscess.”

Mayo Clinic: “Tooth Abscess,” “Treatment.”

American Association of Endodontists: “Abscessed Teeth.”

American Dental Association: “Dental Abscess.”

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry: “Useful Medications for Oral Conditions*.”

Mount Nittany Health: “Dental Abscess With Facial Cellulitis.”

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