How to Know If You Have an Abscessed Tooth

How to Know If You Have an Abscessed Tooth
February 3, 2019 Adam Harwood

A tooth abscess is a buildup of pus and bacteria in or around the root of the tooth. An abscess can form either at the tip of the tooth’s root, next to the root or on the gums. Left untreated, an abscessed tooth can turn into a serious and may be a life-threatening condition.

Symptoms of an abscessed tooth include:

  • Pain that radiates to your ear, jaw, or neck
  • Pain that gets worse when you lie down, chew or bite
  • Facial redness and swelling
  • Swollen and red gums,
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Discolored or loose teeth
  • Bad breath or a foul taste in your mouth
  • Tender or swollen lymph nodes in your neck or under your jaw
  • Fever

If you experience any of these symptoms you should contact your dentist immediately.


A dental abscess is caused by an infection that has made its way into the root of the tooth. This can be a result of gum disease, cavities or even a foreign object becoming lodged in the gums (Think: popcorn). The infection stimulates an immune response directed towards the infected area. The resulting inflammation is to blame for the pain and tender feeling that are most commonly felt with abscessed teeth.


Your dentist may want to drain the abscess. A small incision will be made allowing the puss to escape. Saline solution works well to disinfect the inflamed area. In more advanced cases, treatment will require a root canal, or the removal of infected pulp from the root chamber and seal it shut. Often times, a crown will be used to cap the infected tooth for extra strength. If the tooth is beyond repair, and this is true in some cases, your dentist will remove the tooth and drain the abscess that way. If the infection has spread beyond the abscessed area, which it sometimes does, antibiotics will be prescribed accordingly.

Over-the-counter ibuprofen or rinsing your mouth with salt water can provide temporary relief if a dentist is not immediately available. Your better off avoiding all of this in the first place and practicing good oral hygiene.

And if popcorn kernels are getting stuck in your teeth, you probably just need more butter!