Before you arrive at a tooth abscess though, decay eats away at your hard enamel (a painless process) and then the softer dentin layer (you may feel pain when you eat cold or sweet foods) underneath.
According to Merck's Online Medical Library, the cavity might take 2-3 years to get through your enamel and less than a year to work its way through your dentin. At this point, you still have a cavity and not an abscess tooth. Make time for a dental restoration and your painful trip ends here with tooth sensitivity.
If you ignore your toothache and sensitivity, you resume your journey towards a dental abscess. Once bacterium infects the pulp, a condition called pulpitis, it causes irreversible damage - and lingering pain after you've swallowed that spoonful of ice cream or spontaneous toothache pain without the pleasures of things sweet or cold. Some people describe these as gnawing, throbbing or sharp, stabbing pains.
Now you've acquired a tooth abscess: Your tooth starts swimming in pools of pus created by the spreading infection. The increasing bacteria of your abscessed tooth tell your body to send white blood cells to combat the invaders. Live and dead white blood cells, enzymes and destroyed tissue cells all swim in a sac of abscessed tooth fluid. Dental abscesses or sacs develop in the gums, the tooth itself or its roots. If the sac forms around the tooth root tips, label it a periapical abscess. If the tooth abscess forms at the top of the root, it is an apical abscess. You'll want to get rid of these sacs and eliminate infection as soon as possible.
So what else goes hand-in-hand with an abscessed tooth? Halitosis and bitter tastes in your mouth accompany your tooth abscess. If the dental abscess bursts, you'll get a sudden rush of something really ugly-tasting and smelling in your mouth. You'll feel more tooth sensitivity too.
Your next stop brings you sickness and general discomfort. Sometimes tooth abscess delivers fever and swelling. Once you get swollen glands or swelling in your jaws, don't hesitate to see your dentist. These mark serious abscessed tooth complications.
When your abscess tooth pulp dies, the pain may go away as the roots and nerve die. Don't think this is a good sign; it tells you your tooth died. Endodontic treatment can heal and save your abscessed tooth to help chew and keep your other teeth in place. Your dentist won't have to remove a dead tooth so long as the dental abscess and bacterium are removed.