Friday, February 7, 2014

Dental Abscess: Causes and Treatment

What exactly is a dental abscess? How is it caused and more importantly, how is it treated? This article aims to answer these questions so that patient's have confidence in the procedure before they enter the dentist's chair.
What are the major symptoms of a dental abscess? Pain which can be severe and throb, swelling of the gums, swelling of the face, tooth is tender to touch, high temperature and fever and the spasm of jaw muscles.
So what exactly is a dental abscess? An abscess is a collection of pus which is made up of white blood cells, dead tissue and bacteria in the tooth or nearby structures. There are two types of dental abscess:
Periapical- this is the most common type and usually starts in the centre of the tooth. Tooth decay erodes the protective enamel of the tooth allowing bacteria to invade the pulp of the tooth causing infection.
Periodontal- usually develops as a complication from gum disease. Gum disease can cause the gum to become slightly detached from the tooth causing pockets to form which can become filled with bacteria forming the abscess.
How can an abscess be treated? Before you see the dentist take over the counter pain killers such as paracetamol or ibruprofen. Once you see a dentist, to relieve the symptoms dentists usually drain the pus either through lancing the abscess or by drilling a small hole in the tooth to allow the pus to escape. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed for a few days to clear any infection that remains.
Further treatment for periapical abscess is root canal treatment which will save and restore the damaged inner part of the tooth. If the infection continues even after root canal treatment the dentist may have to extract the tooth.
Further treatment for a periodontal abscess includes, once the pus is drained, smoothing the root surfaces of the tooth, encouraging the pocket to disappear so that infection doesn't return.
Once the abscess has been treated what is the outlook? Generally good, usually the tooth is saved. However, if left complications can be severs, the abscess can burst onto the skin of the face creating a sinus tract (channel) which can discharge pus. Complications are very rare, but if they do occur they can be life threatening including:
Osteomyelitis- an infection of the nearby bone
Sinusitis- infection of the sinuses
A dental cyst
Cavernous sinus thrombosis- this is a very serious infection causing blood clotting of blood vessels in the brain
Can a dental abscess be prevented? Yes by good oral hygiene with regular tooth brushing and flossing in addition to a good diet with low levels of sugar intake and regular dental checkups.
In conclusion, the important message here is to see your emergency dentist as soon as possible if you suspect that you may have a dental abscess, if not just to relieve the pain but to prevent further severe complications. Many dental practices are available 24 hours per day 7 days per week so there is no need to wait for your own dental practice to reopen.By
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