The Truth About Dental Abscesses
What is an Abscess?
An abscess is an infection. There are two types of dental abscesses. A periapical abscess, which happens at the root of a tooth and a periodontal abscess which happens in the gum. A periapical abscess can occur when decay gets into the nerve chamber, killing the nerve and pulp tissue. Sometimes a traumatic injury or crack in a tooth can damage the delicate nerve inside, resulting in the death of the nerve. Periodontal disease is a chronic gum infection that can weaken the bone and may result in bone and tooth loss if untreated. It can also trigger widespread infection throughout the mouth. Regardless of where in the mouth the infection occurs, if it goes untreated for too long, a pus-filled area forms and that is called the abscess.
What are the Symptoms?
Symptoms of an abscess include:
- Severe pain and a throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck, or ear
- Hot or cold tooth sensitivity that lingers
- Pressure sensitivity
- Facial swelling
- Bad breath
- Soreness in your neck and jaw from swollen lymph nodes
- Rotten or sour taste in your mouth
It’s important to mention that sometimes an abscess causes no pain, or sometimes the pain goes away suddenly. The discomfort of a toothache is usually caused by the buildup of fluid or gases inside the tooth as the nerve dies. Sometimes the infection works its way into the gum, creating a bubble on the gum. Once this bubble pops, the infection begins to drain into the gum tissue and mouth, and the pain goes away. This doesn’t mean that the infection is getting better, it just means the pressure is relieved.
Once an abscess has been diagnosed, there are a few methods of treatment. Antibiotics can be prescribed to destroy the bacteria, but the central issue of an infected tooth, dying nerve, or periodontal disease must still be dealt with.
If your abscess is due to a dying nerve, a root canal may be recommended to clean out the infected tissue, shape the canals and place a rubber-like material in the canals to seal them. A crown or cap might be put over the tooth to help preserve the remaining tooth and prevent further breakage.
If your abscess is due to periodontal disease, root planing and scaling may be done. This is a deep cleaning done with anesthetic and specialized instruments. Sometimes lasers are used to help sterilize the pocket to help prevent bacteria from reinfecting the area.
Preventing an Abcess
While you can’t always avoid a sudden traumatic impact causing a nerve to die, there are plenty of ways you can prevent decay-related infections and periodontal disease:
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings
- Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day
- Replace your toothbrush every three or four months and never, ever share it with anyone
- Drink tap water or fluoridated bottled water
- Watch your sugar and carbohydrate intake because they are bacteria’s favorite food
- Use a mouth rinse before bed so it can sit on your teeth overnight
With a little care, you can help prevent an abscess and periodontal disease before they develop, saving yourself the inconvenience and pain of a toothache and the expense of major treatment.
Taking Care of Your Teeth as You Age
As our bodies age, we know we’ll have lots of very natural physical challenges, and that includes changes in our teeth and mouth. Those changes can be unsettling – even frightening – and day-to-day dental hygiene can become difficult. But if these new challenges are met head-on, there’s no reason seniors can’t keep gums and teeth healthy well into their later years!
As you grow older, make it a point to stay aware of the new dental challenges you face and you’ll be much happier with your dental health – and with life in general!
Day-to-Day Challenges of Senior Dental Hygiene
Many common day-to-day changes seniors face in caring for their teeth fall into two categories: physical difficulties and medication side effects.
General physical lifestyle changes you experience as a senior may seem as though they are unrelated to dental care, but they can have a huge impact on your teeth. For example, if you develop arthritis, it may be more difficult for you to properly brush your teeth every day. If so, you may find it easier to use an electric toothbrush, which requires less precision and force. Similarly, you should consider using a water flosser if flossing has become difficult.
The side effects of some medications many people begin taking as seniors can cause dry mouth. This innocent-sounding condition can have serious consequences for dental health over time, because saliva is a major part of how your body keeps your teeth clean. A dry mouth is a perfect environment for germs to grow. You can manage this challenge by increasing your fluid intake and chewing sugarless gum to stimulate saliva production.
Look and Feel Natural with Dentures
Many people, despite their best efforts and good dental habits over a lifetime, will find they have significant damage to their teeth as they age and may want to consider dentures to help them with eating and speaking.
Dentures come in a variety of forms, but all of them are designed to make your mouth look and feel normal after tooth loss. If you only have a few good teeth left, you may decide to pull them and go with full dentures. If you’ve only lost a tooth or two, you may not need a full set of dentures. Partial dentures can give you strong, natural-looking replacements that blend well with your other teeth. For convenience, you might consider implants with click-on dentures that don’t require adhesives.
Make Senior Dental Care a Priority!
Dental hygiene is important at any age, but the older you get the more important it is to practice good dental hygiene to keep your teeth and mouth healthy. Whether you’ve made it to a ripe old age with a full set of healthy teeth or you’ve needed a little bit of work along the way, your dentist can work with you as your partner to preserve your shining smile.
If you have any questions at all about changes to your dental care routine as you get older, or if you want to discuss possible dental implants or dentures, give us a call at (904) 204-5691 We’ll work with you to keep you on the road to healthy senior teeth!