Is A Tooth Abscess An Emergency?

cropped 20211105 piara ro1 5941 scaled 1.jpg By Dr. Ram Nair

Is A Tooth Abscess An Emergency?

A tooth abscess can be incredibly painful and, if left unaddressed, can lead to more serious health problems. But while a tooth abscess can be a serious dental issue, it’s also not always clear when it becomes an emergency.

If you’re wondering if a tooth abscess is an emergency, you’re not alone. In this blog post, we’ll explore when to go to the emergency department with a tooth abscess and what you can expect if you do. We’ll also give some tips on what to do if you have a tooth abscess.

Dental emergencies are no joke. Keep reading to find out when is the right time to seek emergency dental care for a tooth abscess.

What is a Tooth Abscess?

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A tooth abscess is a collection of pus that forms due to a decayed tooth. It’s a painful infection caused by bacteria that invade the tooth through decay, a crack or a chip.

Once tooth decay is left untreated, it progresses until it reaches the tooth’s pulp. The pulp contains blood vessels, nerves, and tissue and once the infection has reached it, it may lead to pus or abscess formation.

A tooth abscess can spread to the bone surrounding the tooth forming a swelling. In some cases, it can also spread to other parts of the body, like the brain, and become a life-threatening complication.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is a serious dental condition that can cause intense pain and discomfort. If you think you have a tooth abscess, it is important to seek professional dental care as soon as possible. Early diagnosis and treatment are essential for preventing complications.

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Severe tooth or jaw
  • pain
  • Fever
  • Gum tenderness
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Facial swelling
  • Swollen jaw
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods
  • Bad breath

See your dentist as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms. With prompt treatment, tooth abscesses can usually be resolved without any long-term damage.

What Causes Tooth Abscesses?

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A tooth abscess may form because of several reasons. The most common causes of tooth abscesses are:

Bacteria in the Mouth

One of the leading causes of tooth abscesses is bacteria that enter the tooth through a crack or cavity. The bacteria multiply and break down the tooth until it reaches the pulp. This results in an infection that causes the formation of a sac filled with pus.

If left untreated, a tooth abscess can lead to severe complications, including damage to the jawbone and the spread of the infection to other parts of the body.


Cavities are one of the primary causes of tooth abscesses. A cavity is a small hole that forms in the tooth enamel. Cavities are caused by the accumulation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. Plaque produces acids that eat away at the tooth enamel, causing cavities.

When cavities form, they provide an opening for bacteria to enter the tooth. Over time, this bacteria can spread through the tooth causing an infection. If left untreated, this infection can eventually lead to an abscess.

Trauma to the Tooth

Tooth trauma or dental injury is a common cause of tooth abscess. Tooth abscesses are often the result of tooth decay or gum disease, but they can also occur after an injury to the tooth.

A fractured tooth, or one that is cracked or chipped, may cause bacteria to enter the tooth resulting in an infection. If the tooth is knocked out, the blood vessels and nerves are exposed, and bacteria can enter the tooth through these open wounds.

Gum Disease

Another main cause of tooth abscesses is gum disease, an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth.

Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. Plaque can lead to gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, a more severe form of gum disease that can damage the bone and other tissues that support the teeth.

Is a Tooth Abscess Considered A Dental Emergency?

A tooth abscess is a dental condition that, if left unchecked, can lead to serious health complications, including tooth loss and damage to the jawbone. Worse, it may even cause death. For these reasons, it is important to seek treatment for a tooth abscess as soon as possible.

While some people may think a tooth abscess is not a dental emergency, this is not the case. A tooth abscess is a dental emergency because it can quickly become life-threatening.

What Should I Do If I Have a Tooth Abscess?

If you have a tooth abscess, the first thing you should do is call your dentist. If you don’t have a dentist and the symptoms have worsened, you can go to an emergency room or urgent care centre.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do for pain relief and keep the infection from spreading.

  • Rinse your mouth with warm water or saline solution to cleanse the area and help reduce oral pain.
  • You can also take over-the-counter pain medicine like ibuprofen to help ease discomfort.
  • It’s important to avoid chewing on the affected tooth, as this can cause more pain.
  • Continue to practice good dental and oral hygiene.

What Are the Treatment Options for A Tooth Abscess?

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The most important goal of a tooth abscess treatment plan is to drain the abscess and remove the infection. There are various treatment options available for a tooth abscess, and the best option will depend on the severity of the infection.

More severe infections may require root canal treatment or tooth extraction. In some cases, surgery may also be necessary to drain the abscess. However, if the tooth is severely infected that incision and drainage or root canal therapy can’t help, tooth extraction might be necessary.
Regardless of the treatment required, seeking professional dental care as soon as possible is important to avoid further complications.

When Should I Seek Emergency Care if I Have An Abscess?

Emergency care, or a trip to the hospital emergency department, is needed if:

  • The patient is developing a fever.
  • The swelling is spreading to the jaw and neck.
  • The patient is in severe, constant pain.
  • The patient is having difficulty breathing.

If you have a tooth abscess, it is important to see a dentist immediately so that you can receive proper dental or medical attention.

Are There Any Risks with Tooth Abscess?

Some risks associated with a tooth abscess include:

Tooth and Bone Loss

If treated immediately, an abscessed tooth can be saved with root canal therapy. However, if left untreated, an abscess from an infected tooth can grow and cause bone loss. The tooth loses its attachment to the bone, ultimately leading to tooth loss.

Blood Poisoning

If the abscess ruptures, there is a risk of bacteria and pus entering the bloodstream. This can lead to a life-threatening condition called septicemia.

Infection to the Brain and Other Organs

Some of the roots of the upper teeth have a direct connection to the brain. If these teeth become abscessed, the pus can spread to the brain or other body parts causing life-threatening conditions.


A tooth abscess is a serious condition that can lead to death if left untreated. The infection typically begins in the root of a tooth and spreads to the surrounding tissue. If the infection is not caught early, it can progress to a serious condition called Ludwig’s angina, which can block the airway and prevent oxygen from reaching the lungs. In extreme cases, this can lead to death.

Final Thoughts

If you are experiencing symptoms of a tooth abscess, it is important to see a dentist immediately. You may think that a simple dental pain will go away on its own, but tooth abscesses can get worse and should not be ignored.

At Piara Waters Dental, you can book a dental consult online so you can get the care you need as soon as possible. Please book an appointment today or call us at (08) 6196 4661.

Our friendly team of dental professionals will give you dental advice and help you take care of your oral and dental health. You’ll be on the road to recovery as quickly as possible.

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