There are many reasons why you might require the services of an emergency dentist. Having a dental abscess is one of the reasons. If you have a tooth that is persistently hurting and keeping you awake all night, it might be a dental abscess and not simply a toothache. Therefore, you should seek treatment from a dental professional right away before it gets worse.

Our dentists at Washington Dental are aware that oral health emergencies can occur at any time. That's why we are readily available to help you at any time. Our skilled dental specialists will meet your emergency session request so that you do not have to suffer from dental pain any longer. If you're experiencing a dental emergency, such as a dental abscess in Lomita, California, be sure to reach out to us immediately, and we'll do our best to restore your perfect smile.

Overview of Dental Abscess

A dental or tooth abscess is a pus-filled pocket that develops inside the teeth or gums. This accumulation is caused by bacterial infection. It can develop for a variety of reasons and at various points within the tooth, leading to several types of dental abscesses. A tooth abscess can cause mild to severe discomfort that can spread to the ear and neck.

Each tooth is made up of several layers. The outer layer is known as enamel, and it protects the soft layer called dentin. Both the dentin and the enamel act as protective layers for the tooth. The pulp is located beneath the dentin.

The pulp houses the tooth's nerves and blood vessels. It flows through the center of the tooth's root, which is where it joins the upper or lower jawbone. As a result, infections affecting the pulp can easily be transmitted to the jawbone.

Similarly, if the gums surrounding a tooth get damaged, the tooth is at risk of getting affected. Some tooth abscesses damage the tooth pulp first before spreading to the jawbone, while others target the tissues around the gums. They do not originate in the pulp.

Types of Dental Abscess

Tooth abscesses are classified based on where they occur. The following are the most popular types of dental abscesses:

Periapical Dental Abscess

Periapical dental abscesses develop near the tip of the tooth's root. Children are more likely to experience this than adults. This type of abscess is most common in young children with poor dental hygiene.

For example, poor dental hygiene, such as not brushing or flossing, can result in dental caries, or cavities, which erode the enamel and dentin and allow germs into the dental pulp. As a result, the pulp can swell and get inflamed, leading to the destruction of the tooth's nerves. Dead tissues increase the chances of an abscess developing on the tooth because they tend to be more prone to infections.

When the enamel and dentin are damaged in a periapical dental abscess, bacteria can enter the pulp, causing pulpitis, which is an inflammatory condition. A periapical tooth abscess is a common consequence of long-lasting, severe pulpitis. It can lead to swelling of the jaw and cheeks.

Gingival Dental Abscess

A gingival dental abscess affects only the gum tissue and has no impact on the teeth or periodontal ligaments. It arises when germs in the mouth build up and cause infections in the area between the teeth and gums. Poor dental hygiene can result in gum infection, which can lead to the development of abscesses.

Periodontal Dental Abscess

This type of abscess develops in the gums near the supporting bone structure. Adults are more likely to get this type of abscess than children, and it typically results from periodontitis. It typically begins in the alveolar bone and periodontium. Your teeth, including the surrounding area, might get loose or inflamed due to gum disease or injury. A periodontal abscess can result from a bacterial infection in the resulting pocket that forms between a single tooth and its surrounding tissue.

Pericoronitis is another rare kind of abscess. The infection in this case targets the operculum/gum flap that protects teeth that haven't yet popped out through the gum.

To remove bacterial infections, dentists can treat tooth abscesses by making an incision and draining the pus. They could also be able to save your teeth by performing a root canal operation. However, they might need to remove the tooth in certain situations. Dental abscesses can develop into serious, sometimes fatal, problems if left untreated.

Symptoms of Dental Abscesses

The following are signs and symptoms of dental abscesses:

  • Extremely painful, pulsating, and persistent pain on the same side as the damaged tooth or gum, which might radiate to the ear, neck, or jawbone. It's likely that this kind of discomfort starts unexpectedly and gets worse.
  • Fever.
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages.
  • Swelling of the face or cheeks.
  • Swelling and tenderness of the jaw or neck lymph nodes.
  • Sensitivity to chewing or biting pressure.
  • Breathing or swallowing challenges brought on by pain and edema.
  • An unpleasant taste and odor in the mouth.
  • Redness in the face.
  • Loose, tender, or discolored tooth.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Pain gets worse when lying down, which can make it difficult to sleep.
  • Gums tend to appear shiny, swollen, and red.
  • Lockjaw, or trismus.

Problems Associated with Dental Abscess

Abscesses can't heal on their own without medical attention. The pain could become substantially less severe if it breaks. However, you should still get dental treatment. If the abscess doesn't drain, the bacterial infection could spread to the jawbones and other areas of the head and neck, leading to facial or eye swelling as well as pain around the ears, eyes, and nose.

You could also develop sepsis. Sepsis is an acute, life-threatening infection that spreads through the body. If your body's immune system is weakened and you do not treat the tooth abscess, you are more likely to develop the spreading infection.

Other uncommon dental issues include:

  • Cellulitis—a bacterial infection that affects the skin and subcutaneous tissues.
  • Osteomyelitis—an infection that affects the underlying bones.
  • Ludwig's angina—develops when cellulitis affects the tissues in the lower jawbone, behind the chin, and beneath the tongue. It is also known as a cellulitis infection of the submandibular region.
  • Cavernous sinus thrombosis—develops when an infection extends to the blood vessels located in the sinuses of the head.
  • A parapharyngeal abscess—is a type of dental abscess that forms in the rear part of the mouth, near the throat. This is caused by staphylococcal or streptococcal bacteria. It is more common in children aged five and below.

A serious dental abscess can spread to several other parts of the body, potentially leading to meningitis and other serious health disorders.

Ludwig’s Angina and Parapharyngeal Abscess

Both parapharyngeal abscesses and Ludwig's angina can cause swelling that is severe enough to obstruct the windpipe and make breathing difficult. A needle aspiration is required to diagnose a parapharyngeal abscess. On the other hand, needle aspiration and X-rays are used to diagnose Ludwig's angina.

Facial Cellulitis and Cellulitis

Signs and symptoms of facial cellulitis include:

  • Fever.
  • A sore tongue that is probably swollen.
  • Itching and burning of the affected skin.
  • A face that is red and swollen, especially on the cheeks.

These conditions require urgent medical attention and should be examined in a healthcare facility. The treatment consists of drainage of any pus buildup that is present, often with surgery and antibiotics, and at other times with intravenous antibiotics.

If Ludwig's angina is left untreated, you might need a tracheostomy to clear your airway and make it easier for you to breathe if the inflammation and swelling cover your windpipe.

Causes of a Dental Abscess

A dental abscess develops when bacterial infections attack the dental pulp, which is the interior part of the teeth and comprises connective tissues, nerves, and blood vessels. Bacteria enter the tooth through cracks, chips, or dental cavities and flow down to the tooth's root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and irritation at the tooth root's tip.

Risk Factors for a Dental Abscess

The following elements can increase the possibility of getting a tooth abscess:

  • Poor oral hygiene, such as failing to properly brush and floss your teeth daily, can raise your risk of developing gum disease, dental abscesses, tooth decay, and other oral and dental problems.
  • Dry mouth – Having a dry mouth can increase your risk of developing tooth decay. A dry mouth is often brought on by aging-related problems or medication adverse effects.
  • Eating food that is high in sugar can lead to dental cavities, which can turn into an abscess in the mouth if taken frequently. Other foods and drinks high in sugar include sweets and sodas.

Preventing Dental Abscesses

Dental abscesses can be avoided if cavities and tooth decay are treated early on. To avoid tooth decay, you should take good care of your mouth and teeth. Here are a few tips for maintaining your teeth:

  • Use fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day to brush your teeth.
  • Take fluoridated water.
  • Clean in between the teeth every day with a dental cleaner, dental floss, or an interdental.
  • Consume healthy meals and avoid between-meal snacking and sugary treats.
  • If your toothbrush has frayed bristles or has been in use for more than three months, it's time for a replacement.
  • Visit your dentist every six months for a thorough cleaning.
  • Use an antiseptic or fluoride mouthwash to give an additional layer of protection against tooth decay.

Diagnosis of a Tooth Abscess

In addition to inspecting the teeth and their surrounding areas, your dental professional can:

  • Recommend getting an x-ray—getting an x-ray scan for a painful tooth can help detect an abscess. The dentist can also use an X-ray to determine whether the gum or tooth infection has begun to spread, resulting in abscesses in other parts of the mouth.
  • Tap on your teeth—teeth with abscesses at the root are frequently painful and sensitive to touch or pressure.
  • Recommend a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan—if the infection has progressed to other parts of the neck, your dental professional could ask for a scan. The scan could be used to gauge the severity of the bacterial infection.

Options for Treating a Dental Abscess

The severity of your dental abscess can affect the type of therapy that your emergency dentist recommends. Less thorough therapy can be given if the infection is addressed quickly after it manifests. If the infection has spread and led to severe adverse effects, on the other hand, an array of treatment options will be performed.

Your dentist could begin by taking a dental x-ray before making a treatment recommendation. It will enable him or her to determine whether the illness has reached other mouth regions. Treatment options for dental abscesses depend on their kind and severity.


Antibiotics are the most popular way to treat an abscess since they eliminate the bacteria that cause them and hasten the healing process. After being administered, antibiotics fix the dental abscess within 5 days, but the symptoms disappear in as little as 2 days.

To speed up healing and reduce discomfort, it is frequently combined with other forms of treatment. Additionally, if you have a weak immune system, your dental professional could advise taking antibiotics.

Root Canal Therapy

To treat a root canal problem, the infected pulp must first be removed, and the abscess must be drained. The pulp chamber is then sealed once the root canal and pulp chamber have been filled. After that, a crown is placed on the tooth to further strengthen it. After the infection has cleared up, your dentist can also recommend surgery to get rid of dead and decaying root canal tissues.

The Incision for Abscess Drainage

To speed up healing, all the buildup of pus surrounding the affected area should be withdrawn. The dental professional will have to create a small incision to discharge the abscess if it fails to rupture and discharge the pus on its own. The affected region is then cleansed using a saline solution. After that, the antibiotics would aid in the healing of the open wound.

Removal of the Infected Tooth

If the dental abscess has ruined the teeth to the point where it can't be restored, it would have to be removed. The abscess cannot spread if the affected tooth is extracted, which also helps to facilitate healing.

Your dentist can drain the abscess once the tooth has been extracted. After that, the incision is cleansed, and any leftover infected tissues are removed by curettage, which involves scooping or scraping to allow healing of the wound.


If the abscess has spread to other parts of the body, like the neck or jaw, you could require surgery to drain the pus. Also, if the infection persists and grows after receiving root canal treatment, a surgical operation could be performed.

When to Schedule a Dental Appointment

Consult a dentist right away if you notice any of these signs or symptoms of a tooth abscess. If you notice swelling in your face and fever and can't seem to reach your dentist, go to the emergency room.

Additionally, if you're having trouble breathing or swallowing, go to the ER. These signs could indicate that the infectious bacteria has spread further into the tissues around your jaw as well as to other parts of your body.

Treatment Costs

Dental abscess treatment costs are typically unpredictable since different individuals have varying levels and types of infection, necessitating various surgeries or treatments. Some of the expenses can be catered for if you're covered by dental insurance.

The cost varies based on the following factors:

  • The severity and type of the abscess.
  • The kind, complexity, and length of necessary treatment.
  • The type of dental professional required.
  • Your age and health status.
  • Whether you'll require a hospital emergency room or an operating room.

How to Reduce Pain from a Dental Abscess

If you have a minor or severe abscess, seek medical attention from a dental professional as soon as possible. Keep in mind that tooth abscesses won't go away on their own; rather, they get worse if left untreated for a long time. There are various methods for relieving pain before you can see your dentist.

A warm saltwater rinse can help alleviate the pain. When you gargle with warm, salty water, the pus built up in the mouth can drain more effectively. Additionally, it promotes recovery and slows the development or spread of any infection. To ease discomfort, you could also apply ice to the affected area.

Purchasing over-the-counter painkillers is another option. Anti-inflammatory medications, like aspirin and ibuprofen, can help relieve discomfort and pain. However, since aspirin burns the gums and cheeks, it's not recommended to use it directly on the infected areas. Make sure you've followed up with an appointment with the dentist's office for competent guidance.

Ways to Prevent Oral Abscesses

Preventative measures are better than treatment. Practicing simple oral hygiene can help you avoid suffering and spending money that would have been needed to treat abscesses. Additionally, it will make your days more productive and your nights more relaxing without experiencing toothaches or sensitive teeth.

Regular Dental Examinations

Visiting the dentist regularly can be very helpful. Regular dental exams enable any issues with the state of your oral health to be quickly identified and addressed before they worsen. It is advised to have a dental checkup after every 6 months.

Practicing Good Oral Hygiene

It is recommended that you use fluoride toothpaste and brush your teeth at least twice a day for a total of approximately 2 minutes every single time. Remove any crumbs of food that are stuck between the teeth with a toothbrush or dental floss. Brush your gums, tongue, and inner cheeks gently to remove any food particles that might have gotten stuck on the surface.

Avoiding Sugary Foods and Drinks

Reduce the consumption of sugary meals and beverages, especially before going to sleep, since they provide an ideal setting for the development of bacteria. Bacterial overgrowth in your mouth causes infections.

Putting On Mouth Guards

If you intend to participate in activities that could result in dental injury, you ought to put on mouth guards. It will spare you the agony of losing a single tooth, acquiring a broken or chipped tooth, and thereby avoiding abscesses.

Getting Ready For Your Dental Abscess Treatment Appointment

The treatment process often starts with a visit to the dentist's office. The following information could help you get ready for your dentist appointment:

  1. List any signs you're experiencing, even if they are unrelated to the tooth pain or mouth.
  2. List all prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, dietary supplements, and vitamins you are using, along with their respective dosages.
  3. Prepare a list of questions you'll ask the dentist.

These questions could include:

  • What might be the root of your symptoms or condition?
  • What examinations should you have?
  • What are the proper steps to consider?
  • What other options do you have for the main strategy the dentist recommends?
  • Are there any rules you have to follow?
  • Should you seek out a professional?
  • Can you get any printed materials? Which website would the dentist recommend?
  • Are there generic versions of the medicine that the dentist is suggesting?

Don't hesitate to raise any additional questions you might have throughout your appointment.

What To Expect From Your Dental Professional

Your dentist would ask you about several issues, such as:

  • When you first noticed the symptoms and signs.
  • If the signs or symptoms have been continuous or occasional.
  • If you have recently had any injuries to your teeth or dental work.
  • How severe are your symptoms or signs?
  • What tends to alleviate your symptoms?
  • What makes the symptoms worse?

The dentist could ask you more questions based on your responses, needs, and symptoms. Anticipating and planning for questions allows you to make the best use of your time.

Find an Emergency Dentist Near Me

It's important to pay close attention to what's happening with your teeth and mouth. Any slight change can give a clue that there is a bigger problem at hand. For example, if you experience sudden, acute pain, be cautious because this could indicate an abscess. You should go to a dental clinic as soon as possible.

At Washington Dental, we will inspect your teeth and diagnose the condition before recommending an appropriate treatment plan. You shouldn't have to put up with any more oral discomfort or pain. We’ll do everything possible to treat you as soon as possible so that you can get back your comfort and beautiful smile. If you're in Lomita and require emergency dental care, don't hesitate to call us at 310-326-5183.