(Dental Abscess; Abscessed Tooth)
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
A tooth abscess is a sac of infected material called pus in a tooth or the gums. Early treatment can prevent tooth loss and the spread of infection to tissue and bone.
A tooth abscess is caused by bacteria. It begins when bacteria invade and infect the tissue around a tooth. This results in pus build-up. An abscess happens when the pus is unable to drain.
Problems that allow bacteria to invade a tooth are:
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Problems may be:
Your dentist will ask about your symptoms and health history. A dental exam will be done.
Images may be taken of the tooth and surrounding bone. This can be done with x-rays.
A sample of the abscess fluid may be taken and tested.
The goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and treat the infection. Options are:
These procedures may be done to get rid of the infection:
Medicine may be given to ease pain. Antibiotics will be given to treat the infection.
To lower the risk of this problem:
Academy of General Dentistry
Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association
Canadian Dental Association
The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Abscess (toothache). Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association website. Available at: https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/a/abscess. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Acute apical dental abscess. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/acute-apical-dental-abscess. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Dental abscess. NHSinform website. Available at: https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/mouth/dental-abscess. Accessed September 16, 2021.
Toothache and Infection. The Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
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Accessed September 16, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
Last Updated: 9/16/2021
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