What’s the difference between a tooth abscess and a tooth infection?

A tooth abscess is a small pocket of pus that develops in a tooth when an infection is present. An abscessed tooth won’t heal on its own, so it’s important to contact your dentist as soon as possible.


What’s the difference between a tooth abscess and a tooth infection?

A tooth infection can develop if you have a very deep cavity (such as a cavity that’s been left untreated), gum disease, or a crack in your tooth where bacteria can enter. The symptoms of a tooth infection may include the following:

  • Throbbing pain in your tooth
  • Pain in the tooth when biting down or chewing
  • Increased tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks

A tooth abscess can occur when an untreated tooth infection spreads into the tooth root.

3 types of tooth infections can cause abscesses:


  • Gingival: This infection develops in your gums. It doesn’t usually affect your tooth or supporting structures.
  • Periapical: A periapical abscess is an infection that forms at the tip of your tooth root. If you have a tooth that’s decayed or fractured, bacteria can enter your tooth and spread to the pulp. The pulp is the innermost part of the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels. When bacteria invade the pulp, infection can spread to the tip of your tooth’s root, then, eventually to the surrounding bone, causing an abscess to form.
  • Periodontal: This infection starts in the bone and tissues that support your teeth. A periodontal abscess may develop if you have advanced gum disease, as this can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth and form pockets, called periodontal pockets. Bacteria can develop inside these pockets, eventually leading to the formation of an abscess.

How do I know if I have a tooth abscess?


A tooth abscess can often be painful, but not everyone will experience pain in the case of an abscessed tooth.

Some of the other symptoms of a dental abscess include the following:

  • Swollen gums around the affected tooth
  • Pain in the tooth when biting down or chewing
  • A persistent foul taste in your mouth
  • Bad breath
  • Pain in the jaw

In severe cases of a dental abscess, a pimple can form on the gum, as well as bacteria spreading to other parts of the body. The signs that an infection has spread include swollen lymph nodes, facial swelling, fever, and a general sense of feeling unwell. In addition, severe tooth abscesses can sometimes cause difficulty with breathing and swallowing.

Treating a Tooth Abscess


The severity of the impact of a tooth abscess will determine if we can treat it or if you need to be referred to an endodontist; who specialises in teeth roots.

The idea of treating the abscess is to remove it and also save the tooth and further oral health issues. The abscess will need to be drained and in some cases root canal surgery may be required.

While you are waiting to consult @ GlenHuntly Dental Clinic, use salt water rinses and intermittently, clove oil on the site of the infection.

Do not leave the tooth abscess untreated. Call us today and we look forward to helping you improve your oral health.

Who gets abscessed teeth?

You’re more likely to develop an abscessed tooth if you:

  • Smoke: People who smoke are about twice as likely to get tooth abscesses as people who don’t.
  • Have dry mouth (xerostomia): Bacteria thrive in a mouth with a low amount of saliva.
  • Have poor oral hygiene: Regularly brushing, flossing and getting dental cleanings reduces bacteria.
  • Have a weakened immune system: Diseases or medications can lower your immune response, making it harder to fight off germs.

How can I reduce my risk for tooth abscesses?

You can reduce the risk of developing a tooth abscess by seeing your dentist routinely and getting regular dental check-ups and cleanings. It’s also important to see your dentist if a tooth becomes loose or chipped. Proper oral hygiene is essential for dental health. At home, brush your teeth twice a day and floss once a day

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