An abscess occurs when the pulp chamber inside a tooth becomes infected. The pulp chamber is a collection of nerves and blood vessels which runs up through the inside of the tooth. The infection then spreads and multiplies down through the tooth, before collecting down at the tooth root near to the bone.
Symptoms of tooth abscess are often visually apparent. The tooth may turn dark in color due to the byproducts of the infection such as dead tissue. In addition, the area of gum surrounding the tooth may become swollen and red, due to the build-up of pus from the infection. In some cases, facial and jaw swelling may also become apparent. A more obvious sign of infection is when a swollen area is open and leaking. Pain usually accompanies visual symptoms, which can potentially be severe. Throbbing in the gum where the infection has reached is common. In addition, patients may report pain when eating or putting pressure on the tooth. Fever-like symptoms may also arise.
If someone is displaying any or all of the above symptoms, it is very important to visit a dental clinic as soon as possible. When treated quickly, a tooth abscess can usually be treated with a routine route canal.
A root canal is a dental procedure whereby the dentist will clean out the inside of the tooth. The procedure is typically done under local anesthetic, meaning that the tooth will be numb throughout. This is how the procedure goes:
- The dentist will create an opening in the crown (top) of the tooth. This allows the dentist access to the infected pulp.
- The infected pulp is then removed with very small instruments. The dentist then cleans the space inside.
- Once clean, the now-hollow chambers inside the tooth will need to be re-shaped and sealed to prevent infection in future.
- The dentist fills the chambers with a safe, rubbery material called gutta-mercha.
- Finally, the dentist re-seals the top of the tooth temporarily. Another appointment is usually necessary to replace the crown, restoring the tooth completely.
The tooth may be sensitive for some days after the treatment, and over-the-counter painkillers can help with this. Usually, the tooth is soon back to normal. If it remains painful or otherwise uncomfortable for a while after the treatment, consult a dentist.
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