Many patients get confused about the terms tooth abscess and tooth infection. There’s a difference between the two and the treatment for both of these won’t always be the same. The causes are similar, however—usually decay or some type of trauma to the tooth can lead to a dead nerve. This provides a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause an infection. What makes a tooth abscess and tooth infection different from one another?
Tooth Infection Can Lead to a Tooth Abscess
Your body is generally very good at fighting off infections, but when it comes to your teeth, your body has no way of getting antibodies inside your tooth. When there’s a problem with your tooth’s nerve, it will likely die. This may or may not cause symptoms. However, if the dead nerve is left untreated, it can lead to bacteria that can cause an infection.
Once this infection happens, it can quickly spread. If you simply have a tooth infection, your dentist will recommend root canal therapy in order to clean the infection out of your tooth’s nerve and seal up your tooth. This not only allows you to keep your natural tooth, but also prevents further infections or issues with that tooth from occurring.
If your infection is allowed to continue, the bacteria can accumulate and spread to the area between your jaw bone and your tooth. This is the beginning of a tooth abscess, and your body will react by trying to fight the infection. Your body may be able to effectively combat the abscess for a period of time, but the fact remains that your body will not be able to treat the source of the infection—your tooth’s root.
When the infection spreads to the jaw bone at the tip of your tooth, an abscess forms and generally tends to be swollen and painful. It may appear as a lump in your gums above your tooth. For some patients, abscesses are very painful. For others, they may not experience symptoms.
An Infection Will Always Be Present with an Abscess
Tooth abscesses are the result of an infection that often begins at the tip of your tooth’s root. If left untreated, the abscess can actually lead to a gum infection. If you catch a tooth infection or tooth abscess early, a root canal treatment may be all that’s needed. If an abscess is present, it will need to be lanced and drained in order to help your body heal once the source of the infection is removed.
If, however, your abscess has been going on for quite some time or the original tooth infection is not treated, an extraction of the affected tooth may be necessary. Tooth abscesses can spread and cause additional oral health problems. Remember, your body cannot respond appropriately because there’s no blood flow going to the dead root where the infection began.
Tooth Infections and Abscesses Require Professional Treatment
As we’ve addressed, your body can’t effectively fight off a tooth infection. You need to see your dentist for professional treatment to remove the infection and seal your tooth with root canal therapy. If the infection is left untreated, it can turn into a painful abscess, which can turn into a gum infection.
See your dentist if you’re experiencing any type of tooth pain or symptoms of a tooth abscess. The sooner you receive treatment for your infection, the better chance you have of saving your natural tooth and preventing further damage!