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  • Writer's pictureDr. Saumitra Saravana

What to do with an abscessing tooth?

Untreated decay or dental caries will start to invade deeper and deeper into the tooth, finally breaching the nerve space inside the tooth. Usually this would lead to symptoms like pain and extreme sensitivity to hot or cold foods. Pain can be severe, constant and worsen at night.

Once the nerve tissue inside the tooth becomes "Non Vital" or "Dead", the tooth will stop hurting. However there is a residual infection that starts to form at the base of the tooth. This tooth can now be "Quiet" or Asymptomatic for a while before the accumulating pus or Dental Abscess at the base of the root will cause severe discomfort. The reasons why dental abscess can be quiet in some situations and in others spread and result in life-threatening abscesses remain unclear. The accumulating pus is usually limited inside the mouth but in some cases the abscess may spread and result in severe complications or even mortality. If you are unlucky, they will spread into parts of the face, brain or even your heart. More commonly a swollen cheek, lip or closure of the eye can be seen.

When you have a abscessing tooth what should you do? Obviously you need to see a Dentist. Should you get antibiotics first or should you treat the tooth? My recommendation would be to treat the tooth if it can be done safely. If the tooth can be saved, we could open the tooth to let the pus drain out or extract the tooth if the tooth cannot be fixed.

Antibiotics might not work as a first line of defense when you are faced with a spreading infection, the bacteria causing the abscess might be resistant to the antibiotics we give you.

Secondly, in many cases there is a "wall" of tissue that surrounds the abscessing area preventing the penetration of antibiotics. So, in our view its best to treat the cause of the infection. In situations where the mouth cannot open enough for us to safely accomplish the procedure we will choose to try to see if can drain the pus with an incision and place the patient on antibiotics to help us treat the tooth definitively in a few days.

If your are looking for a dentist near you/ in Fredericksburg area or you need to get a free consult or have any questions about Dry Mouth call our office at 540 370 8504 or email us at

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