Doctors and providers who treat this condition


Dental Abscess

An abscess is a pocket of pus at the tip of a tooth root in your jaw bone. It is caused by an infection at the root of the tooth. It can cause pain and swelling of the gum, cheek, or jaw. Pain may spread from the tooth to your ear or the area of your jaw on the same side. If the abscess isn’t treated, it spreads to the gum near the tooth. This causes more swelling and pain. More serious infections cause your face to swell.

A dental abscess usually starts with a crack or cavity in the tooth. The pain is often made worse by drinking hot or cold fluids, or biting on hard foods.

Home care

Follow these guidelines when caring for yourself at home:

  • Avoid hot and cold foods and drinks. Your tooth may be sensitive to changes in temperature. Don’t chew on the side of the infected tooth.

  • If your tooth is chipped or cracked, or if there is a large open cavity, put oil of cloves directly on the tooth to relieve pain. You can buy oil of cloves at drugstores. Some pharmacies carry an over-the-counter "toothache kit." This contains a paste that you can put on the exposed tooth to make it less sensitive.

  • Put a cold pack on your jaw over the sore area to help reduce pain.

  • You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. Note: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease, talk with your health care provider before using these medicines. Also talk with your provider if you’ve had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding.

  • An antibiotic will be prescribed. Take it until finished, even if you are feeling better after a few days.

Follow-up care

Follow up as directed with your dentist or an oral surgeon. Once an infection occurs in a tooth, it will continue to be a problem until the infection is drained. This is done through surgery or a root canal. Or you may need to have your tooth pulled.

When to seek medical advice

Call your health care provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Your face becomes more swollen or red

  • Your eyelids become swollen

  • Pain gets worse or spreads to your neck

  • Fever over 100.4º F (38.0º C)

  • Unusual drowsiness

  • Headache or stiff neck

  • Weakness or fainting

  • Pus drains from the tooth

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing


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