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Abscessed Tooth & Treatment for Cavities: All You Need to Know

What is a Tooth Abscess?

In dental vocabulary, an abscess refers to a pocket filled with pus which usually forms around the root of an infected tooth. If you have one, then it cannot be ignored and an appointment with your dental provider should be made. If tooth treatment for it is delayed, the infection can spread beyond the jaw to your neck and other parts of the body. A tooth abscess can occur at any region of a tooth for various reasons. A periapical abscess happens at the tip of the root whereas a periodontal abscess takes place in the gums at the side of a root. The former type of abscess is a result of an untreated dental cavity, prior dental work, or trauma. 

What are the Causes?

The tooth is only hard on the outside, but the inside is filled with pulp and made up of blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues. An abscess occurs when the tooth pulp is invaded by bacteria. Bacteria can then make its way through a dental cavity or a chip/crack in the tooth, spreading all the way down to the root. This infection leads to swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root. Other causes include periodontal disease (gum disease) and tooth decay. 

What are the Signs of an Abscessed Tooth?

For some people a tooth abscess can cause pain around the area of the tooth such as a sharp, throbbing pain particularly when any sort of pressure is put on it. The prominent symptoms to look out for are:

  • Swelling
  • Redness of the gums and/or puffiness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Bad taste or a bad odour when chewing with affected tooth
  • Fever
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing

Note: The signs above prompt a visit to the dentist or an emergency room without delay.

How is it Diagnosed?

A dentist will thoroughly examine your tooth and the area surrounding it, but will additionally:

  • Tap your teeth- presence of a tooth abscess is indicated by sensitivity to touch or pressure
  • X-ray- an x-ray of the tooth can aid in identifying the abscess and determine whether the infection has spread or caused abscesses elsewhere
  • CT Scan: your dentist may recommend getting this done to assess the extent of the infection that may have spread to areas like the neck

Tooth Treatment

A dentist’s main goal is to get rid of the infection. He/she may achieve this in the following ways:

  • Draining the abscess and Incision- an endodontist can may make a small cut into the abscess letting the pus drain out and then use salt water to rinse the area. Seldom, a tiny rubber drain is secured to keep the area open for easy drainage  
  • Root Canal- this minor tooth operation can get rid of the infection and save the tooth. This involves drilling into the tooth, cleaning the pulp from the roots and canals that go into your gum. The area is then sealed either by a filling or a crown is capped to strengthen it. The tooth is restored and will look and function like a normal tooth. 
  • Extraction- when the abscessed tooth cannot be saved, it will have to be taken out and the abscess drained to eliminate the infection
  • Antibiotics- when the infection has spread to other teeth, the jaw or other areas then your dentist will prescribe antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading further. However, these will not cure the abscess

What is a Cavity?

A cavity, also known as tooth decay, is a small hole in the tooth that is usually visible. It may start off small but gradually get larger when left untreated. Initially, cavities don’t cause pain which makes it hard to recognize the problem persists. However scheduled visits to the dentist can help detect tooth decay early on. The most common signs are a visible hole in the tooth, tooth pain/ache, tooth sensitivity, and black/white staining on the teeth. Luckily a cavity treatment could resolve the problems a cavity brings to a tooth. 

Causes of a Cavity

Cavities are a result of a build-up of plaque, a sticky substance that attaches to the teeth, composed of saliva, bacteria, acid, and food particles. Bacteria in the mouth is normal however it can convert sugar into acid when we eat or drink foods containing sugar. The acid in plaque also starts to slowly erode the enamel (protective coating) of your tooth. When the enamel weakens, it increases the risk for decay. Some risk factors include:

  • Poor oral hygiene (failure to brush twice daily and floss)
  • Lack of fluoride 
  • Excessive consumption of sugary foods and beverages
  • Acid reflux disease
  • Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia

What are the Tooth Treatments?

Cavity treatment encompasses the following options:

  • Tooth Filling- the dentist drills into the tooth removing decayed material and then fills the hole with either silver or composite resin
  • Root Canal- the dentist can save the tooth by removing the blood vessels, nerve tissue and decayed areas of the tooth and then filling it or capping with a crown
  • Fluoride treatment- if the cavity is detected at an early stage, this treatment can restore tooth enamel, consequently preventing further decay 

Part of taking care of your teeth is preventing them from developing cavities in the first place. This can be done by:

  • Brushing the teeth twice, every day with fluoride-containing toothpaste
  • Flossing the teeth once, daily
  • Limit snacking between meals
  • Consuming less sugary and acidic foods and drinks and instead of eating foods rich in fibers 
  • Getting Sealants on your teeth
  • Visiting your dentist every 6 months

One cannot stress enough the importance of preventive dentistry. It is rightly said that prevention is indeed better than cure. If you want to have a healthy and happy mouth, you must follow a proper oral health regime. All the measures mentioned above are vital to preventing serious oral health issues such as tooth cavities.

Going for regular dental checkups, twice a year is the most critical measure. It helps in the early detection of problems before they have any chance to become more serious. So, it’s best for you to look for the best dentist in Surrey that can help you with preventive dentistry as well as oral health issues.

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