Dental Abscesses

What Causes A Dental Abscess?

A dental abscess is a collection of pus that forms in the tooth or surrounding tissues. It is caused by a bacterial infection. The most common causes of dental abscesses include:

  • Untreated tooth decay: Tooth decay can create a hole in the tooth that allows bacteria to enter the pulp, the soft tissue inside the tooth. Once bacteria enter the pulp, they can multiply and cause an infection.

  • Cracked or chipped teeth: Cracked or chipped teeth can also allow bacteria to enter the pulp and cause an infection.

  • Gum disease: Gum disease is a chronic infection of the gums that can damage the tissues that support the teeth. If gum disease progresses, it can lead to an abscess.

  • Root canal treatment: Root canal treatment is a procedure that is used to save a tooth that has been infected by bacteria. During root canal treatment, the dentist removes the infected pulp from the tooth and fills the empty space with a rubber-like material. If the root canal treatment is not successful, an abscess can develop.

  • Trauma to the teeth or gums: Trauma to the teeth or gums can damage the tissues and allow bacteria to enter. This can lead to an abscess.

Other factors that can increase the risk of developing a dental abscess include:

  • Diabetes: People with diabetes are more likely to develop dental abscesses because they have a weakened immune system.

  • Smoking: Smoking can damage the gums and make them more susceptible to infection.

  • Poor oral hygiene: Poor oral hygiene can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar, which can provide a breeding ground for bacteria.

If you have any of the symptoms of a dental abscess, such as pain, swelling, redness, or fever, it is important to see a dentist right away. Dental abscesses can be serious and can lead to complications, such as bone loss and tooth loss.

What are the symptoms of a dental abscess or infection?

Pain is the most common symptom of a dental abscess. Often the pain radiates out to other places in the face like the jaw, neck, or ear. Other symptoms include:

• pain in the area while biting or chewing
• extreme sensitivity to cold and hot
• pus seeping out of the abscess
• fever
• swelling in the face or lymph glands
• insomnia (trouble sleeping)
• general feelings of fatigue or sickness
• dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
• foul taste in the patient's mouth
• breathing difficulties

What should I do if I have a dental abscess?

If you think you might have a dental abscess, you should see a dentist immediately. If you are having any swallowing or breathing problems, go to the emergency center of your local hospital. Occasionally, dental abscesses require surgery, but most of the time they can be relieved with antibiotics. While waiting for the antibiotics and painkillers to kick in, there are several things you should do to avoid causing further pain or discomfort. These include: 

• avoiding hot food and drinks
• avoiding cold food and drinks
• chewing on the good side of your mouth
• avoid flossing in the infected area
• using an extra soft toothbrush


  •  Gargling with salt water: Salt water is a natural antiseptic that can help to kill bacteria and reduce inflammation. To gargle with salt water, mix 1 teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and gargle for 30 seconds. Repeat 3-4 times a day.

  • Rinsing with herbal mouthwash: There are a number of Chinese herbal mouthwashes that can be used to treat dental abscesses. These mouthwashes contain herbs that have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and pain-relieving properties. To use a herbal mouthwash, simply rinse your mouth with the mouthwash for 30 seconds after brushing your teeth.

  • Applying a compress to the affected area: A warm compress can help to reduce inflammation and pain. To apply a compress, soak a towel in warm water and apply it to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time.

  • Huang Lian (Coptis chinensis): Huang Lian is a bitter herb that has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is often used to reduce inflammation and kill harmful bacteria in the mouth.

  • Dan Shen (Salvia miltiorrhiza): Dan Shen is a herb that has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is often used to protect the tissues in the mouth and to reduce inflammation.

  • Bo He (Mentha haplocalyx): Bo He is a herb that has antibacterial and cooling properties. It is often used to kill harmful bacteria in the mouth and to reduce inflammation.

It is important to note that natural remedies may not be effective for everyone and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care. If you have a dental abscess, it is important to see a dentist to get the appropriate treatment.


Nordqvist, Christian. "What Is a Dental Abscess? What Causes Dental Abscesses?" Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, 26 Sept. 2014. <>.

Kathleen FM Fan, Judith Jones (2009). OSCEs for dentistry (2nd ed., new and updated. ed.). 2nd: PasTest Ltd. p. 68. ISBN 9781905635504.[/expand]