A dental abscess is an emergency that must be treated in a timely fashion. This is a dental condition that can change facial appearance and if not treated, lead to life threatening complications. A dental abscess is the accumulation of pus in the tissue surrounding a tooth. It can spread and cause the face to swell up. Pus is usually made up of white blood cells that are responding to the presence of bacteria in tissue. A dental abscess can be related to the tooth nerve known as the pulp. Or can be periodontal in nature, relating to the bone and ligament around the tooth. It can also be limited to just the gum tissue and be a gingival abscess.
When a tooth has a deep cavity that goes untreated, the bacteria present in the cavity reach into the nerve space (pulp) and can cause an endodontic abscess. Pulp space contains nerve and blood vessels and when the pulp is infected, the resulting abscess can spread through the facial area. If the abscess is related to the pulp, the tooth may need a dental extraction or a root canal treatment.
If food lodges around the gum space or the gum swells up, a gingival abscess can develop. This is usually relieved by antibacterial irrigation. However, if there was initially a gum pocket or gum disease, bacteria can travel further from the surface and cause a periodontal abscess. It is hard to know if one has a gum pocket or not. Gingival probing that is routinely done during dental visits can determine if there are gum pockets (periodontal pockets). If there are periodontal pockets that are deep, a scaling and root planning (deep cleaning), or periodontal surgery is needed to treat the cause of the bacteria and reduce the pocket space that is harboring the irritants.
A periodontal or endodontic abscess can spread to the blood vessels above the mouth (cavernous sinus) and affect the brain. Or spread downward and cause the floor of the mouth to swell up. When the floor of the mouth swells up, Ludwig’s angina can affect the airway and breathing.
If you or someone you know develops a swelling around the mouth, have it examined by a dental professional as soon as possible. Here at Museum Smiles Dentistry, we see to it promptly that the infection is treated and administer medication like antibiotics as needed. Contact us to schedule a dental appointment. We are located off West 7th in Fort Worth and located within minutes of downtown.