Dental Abscess

ExitCare ImageA dental abscess is a collection of infected fluid (pus) from a bacterial infection in the inner part of the tooth (pulp). It usually occurs at the end of the tooth's root.


  • Severe tooth decay.

  • Trauma to the tooth that allows bacteria to enter into the pulp, such as a broken or chipped tooth.


  • Severe pain in and around the infected tooth.

  • Swelling and redness around the abscessed tooth or in the mouth or face.

  • Tenderness.

  • Pus drainage.

  • Bad breath.

  • Bitter taste in the mouth.

  • Difficulty swallowing.

  • Difficulty opening the mouth.

  • Nausea.

  • Vomiting.

  • Chills.

  • Swollen neck glands.


  • A medical and dental history will be taken.

  • An examination will be performed by tapping on the abscessed tooth.

  • X-rays may be taken of the tooth to identify the abscess.


The goal of treatment is to eliminate the infection. You may be prescribed antibiotic medicine to stop the infection from spreading. A root canal may be performed to save the tooth. If the tooth cannot be saved, it may be pulled (extracted) and the abscess may be drained.


  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines for pain, fever, or discomfort as directed by your caregiver.

  • Rinse your mouth (gargle) often with salt water (¼ tsp salt in 8 oz [250 ml] of warm water) to relieve pain or swelling.

  • Do not drive after taking pain medicine (narcotics).

  • Do not apply heat to the outside of your face.

  • Return to your dentist for further treatment as directed.


  • Your pain is not helped by medicine.

  • Your pain is getting worse instead of better.


  • You have a fever or persistent symptoms for more than 2–3 days.

  • You have a fever and your symptoms suddenly get worse.

  • You have chills or a very bad headache.

  • You have problems breathing or swallowing.

  • You have trouble opening your mouth.

  • You have swelling in the neck or around the eye.