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Home > Dental Conditions > Toothache > Abscessed Tooth and the Road to Tooth Death and Disease
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Abscessed Tooth and the Road to Tooth Death & Disease


Your first step to an abscessed tooth and tooth death begins with tooth decay, most likely from cavities or periodontitis. Or maybe you got there by taking a hit to the jaw or falling down and damaging one of your teeth. The resulting holes and cracks from decay and trauma leave the door open to oral bacteria. If you don't visit the dentist soon, you're buying a painful, one-way ticket to a tooth abscess in your mouth. And nobody wants to go there.

Reading Road Signs: Abscessed Tooth Symptoms

Abscessed Tooth - A tooth abscess is caused by dental decay.

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.

Acquiring Nasty Souvenirs: Tooth Abscess Complications

Here's why you should take care of dental abscesses immediately. Letting your abscessed tooth proceed without getting dental help means running the risk of the following:

A Hole in Your Smile - You could lose the tooth altogether and maybe some adjacent teeth too, if you let the infection spread into your jaw bones or to other roots.

Mediastinitis - The inflammation could spread from your tooth abscess to the area between your lungs. What's in that area? Only your heart, large blood vessels, esophagus, windpipe and some important nodes and glands.

Sepsis - Small clots form, blocking blood flow to vital organs because your body over-reacts to an infection. Don't let your abscess tooth affect your overall health.

More Infections - Your abscessed tooth can cause a host of other problems, as the infections spreads. These problems include cellulitis (skin infection), Ludwig's angina (tissues on the floor of your mouth become infected), osteomyelitis (jaw bone infection), brain abscess, pneumonia and endocartitis (inflamed linings in the heart chambers).

Making a U-turn: Abscess Tooth Treatment

You might not have to visit the land of tooth death if you seek treatment for cavities, broken teeth or even an abscessed tooth right away. Your dentist will drain your dental abscess giving you almost immediate relief from pain.  You might need to see an endodontist for a root canal treatment to clean out the roots and tooth crown to cap your tooth.

Seeking help finding a dentist or endodontist in your area? Call us at 1-866-970-0441.

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