What Are the Treatments for Tooth Infections?

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.

These are some things you can do to ease your symptoms:

  • Take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen for the discomfort
  • Don’t eat or drink anything too hot or too cold
  • Try to chew on the side of your mouth away from the tooth
  • When you brush your teeth, use a toothbrush with soft bristles

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).
  • 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.

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.
  • See your dentist for regular checkups.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Michael Friedman, DDS on May 1, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

NHS Choices: “Dental Abscess.”

Mayo Clinic: “Tooth Abscess, Treatment.”

American Association of Endodontists: “Abscessed Teeth.”

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