Periapical Abscess

The Importance Of Treating A Periapical Abscess

Fortunately, few of us will have to go to the dentist for treatment of a periapical abscess. For most, an occasional cavity needs to be filled, or at worst a tooth needs a new crown or a root canal. An abscess affecting the teeth can be quite a bit different story however.


An abscess is the result of an infection where pus, consisting of dead white blood cells, bacteria, and dead tissue, creates pain and swelling unless or until drained away. Draining the abscess and treating it with antibiotics may or may not resolve the problem permanently, and definitely will not if the cause of the infection is not taken care of.

Periodontal Abscess - Most an abscess affecting the teeth will either be a periodontal abscess, the most common, or a periapical abscess, less common but more dangerous and often the destructive of the two types of abscess A periodontal abscess affects the structure surrounding the tooth, the gum and/or the jawbone. When a periodontal abscess diagnosed and treated, the tooth or teeth in the vicinity of the abscess can generally be saved, and may not even be significantly affected. Very often however the abscess can result from a cavity in one of the teeth and the cavity of course will have to be dealt with to prevent a recurrence.


Periapical Abscess - A periapical abscess on the other hand involves the tooth itself as it centers in the pulp of the tooth. While the symptoms of both types of abscess are similar, a dental examination can usually quickly determine which kind of abscess is at the heart of the problem. While a periodontal abscess can cause pain or discomfort in the area around a tooth, a periapical abscess usually is characterized by a severe toothache. Painkillers may help keep the pain at a tolerable level but it generally will not go away until the abscess is dealt with.

By the time the abscess has begun to cause pain, the tooth's pulp is usually dead, and following treatment of the abscess itself, the tooth will either have to be removed or a root canal procedure will be needed to keep the tooth in the mouth. A dentist will be trying to do two things when dealing with such an infection. Number one is to eliminate the infection and its source, and number two, keep the tooth in the mouth if possible.

Don't Put Off Treatment - In most cases, the pain will be such that treatment will be sought immediately. No one wants to go through life having a continuous bad toothache. To try to "tough it out" is not only fruitless but dangerous. If an abscess is not treated, it will not go away by itself; at least a periapical abscess will not. The infection will spread, and not only to the surrounding area in the gums and mouth, but to elsewhere in the body. If it is allowed to spread to the brain, which can happen, it will most likely prove fatal. We sometimes hear of dental disorders affecting other parts of the body, including the heart (endocarditis). A periapical abscess is one such disorder that can indeed turn out to be deadly. Not only the brain may be infected, that is probably the worst case. The soft tissues in the face and the jaw bone itself, causing osteomyelitis of the jaw can result. Complications from the spread of the infection can bring on pneumonia.

Preventing An Abscess - Prevention is fairly straightforward. For a periapical abscess to occur, a tooth may first be damaged. There is no other way for bacteria to enter the pulp. The most common type of damage is a cavity, from which bacteria are allowed to exist in the softer parts of the tooth and eventually in the pulp. Good dental hygiene is the best preventative, and includes regular dental checkups so cavities can be taken care of when still small. A periapical abscess is something you definitely can do without. Losing a tooth could be the least of your problems.