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Dental Abscess

An infection at the root of the tooth (where the tooth meets the bone) can cause pain and swelling of the gum, cheek or jaw. Pain may spread from the tooth to the ear or jaw on the same side. When this is untreated, it spreads to the gum near the tooth causing swelling and pain. More severe infections cause facial swelling.

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

The following guidelines will help you care for your wound at home:

  1. Avoid hot and cold foods and liquids since your tooth may be sensitive to temperature changes. Do not chew on the side of the infected tooth.

  2. If your tooth is chipped or cracked, or if there is a large open cavity, apply oil of cloves (available over-the-counter in drug stores) directly to the tooth to reduce pain. Some pharmacies carry an over-the-counter "toothache kit." This contains oil of cloves and a paste, which can be applied over the exposed tooth to decrease sensitivity.

  3. A cold pack on your jaw over the sore area may help reduce pain.

  4. You may use acetaminophen or ibuprofen to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed.If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.]

  5. 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 a dentist or oral surgeon. Once an infection occurs in a tooth, it will continue to be a problem until the infection is drained (surgery or root canal), or the tooth is pulled.

When to seek medical care

Get prompt medical attention if any of the following occur:

  • Your face becomes more swollen or red

  • Your eyelids become swollen

  • Pain worsens or spreads to the 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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