Emergency Dentist: Knowing When to Call

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A Brief Guide to Periapical Abscesses

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A periapical abscess is described by the MSD Manual as an area of pus at the root of a tooth, caused by an infection that begins in the tooth and spreads outward. This is in contrast with the perhaps more well-known periodontal abscess, which begins in the gum tissue. Periapical abscesses can be very painful, and can also be dangerous if allowed to spread into the jaw and surrounding tissues. They are one of the most common reasons for an emergency dentist visit due to the pain involved. This short guide will explain the symptoms, how a periapical abscess can be prevented, and how it can be treated. 

Symptoms of a Periapical Abscess

There are a few telltale symptoms that will probably alert you to your periapical abscess, the most noticeable of which is a continuous, throbbing pain that intensifies when you touch the tooth or eat hot or cold foods. There may also be a bad smell or taste in your mouth, as well as some facial swelling. Dentaly explains in these symptoms in detail, as well as pointing out some of the more serious symptoms such as fever and nausea.

Preventing a Periapical Abscess

Periapical abscesses are often caused by poor oral hygiene, which means that taking care of your teeth goes a long way towards preventing an abscess from developing. Make sure that you brush regularly, as well as flossing or using interdental brushes to clean between your teeth. Ensure that you brush the back teeth well, as periapical abscesses are most common in the molars. You should also take a look at your diet, as regular consumption of sugary foods and drinks can contribute to the development of periapical abscesses. 

Treatment For a Periapical Abscess

If you suspect that you have a periapical abscess, you should see a dentist for treatment immediately, before the infection spreads to the nearby tissues and bones and causes serious health problems. The NHS lays out the range of treatments that your dentist may try, the most common of which is a root canal. This procedure aims to remove the abscess from the tooth root before applying a filling. There may also be scope to simply drain the abscess but as a last resort, the tooth may have to be extracted. 

Despite the pain and inconvenience that periapical abscesses can cause, they are not usually dangerous when treated in a timely manner. As well as doing all you can to prevent the condition from arising, see a dentist as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of the infection spreading and maximise the chances that the tooth can be saved.