A tooth abscess is one of the more common and irritating reasons to go to the dentist. The technical definition of an abscess in a tooth is a pocket of puss, as a result of bacterial infection. The abscess could be located in a few different places within the tooth itself and gums and is usually in conjunction with a cavity that has gone untreated.

An abscessed tooth is painful and can cause serious problems if left untreated.

On one end, persistent pain and sensitivity are signs of an abscess. More seriously, you may find yourself with swelling or a fever. Abscesses are common but can be serious and need to be treated as soon as you suspect you may have one. Regular visits to the dentist can prevent cavities from turning into abscesses.

Below is a breakdown of common symptoms of an abscess to help you keep an eye on any tooth pain or cavities you suspect in your teeth.


Tooth pain is the first and most common indicator of an abscess. This isn’t casual tooth pain, however. Generally, pain from an abscess is persistent and throbbing. It also radiates out from the tooth and can cause soreness in the jawbone itself and other parts of the mouth. In addition to this, you may have sensitivity to hot or cold sensations in your mouth that cause discomfort or more pain.

Fever and Swelling

An abscess is the result of an infection, and if it gets bad enough, your body will fight it like any other infection: with a fever. If you develop a fever in conjunction with tooth pain, there’s a good chance an abscess is to blame. Your gum or cheek may also swell as a result of the infection, resulting in tenderness in the area.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

If you allow the abscess to persist and the infection grows, your lymph nodes will likely get involved and swell as well as your immune system continues its work. This swelling can cause discomfort and pain and even affect breathing and swallowing. If this happens, you should go to the ER or an emergency dentist immediately.

Related Questions

What Causes an Abscess?

Cavities are the most common cause of an abscess as the hole gives bacteria a direct route to the tooth pulp. However, chips and cracks in the tooth can perform the same function. So, if you’ve chipped a tooth, you need to get it looked at, cleaned, and repaired immediately to prevent an invasion of bacteria into your tooth.

How Can I Prevent an Abscess?

In addition to seeing your dentist as needed for chips and cavities, you can do things in your everyday life to make sure you’re taking care of your mouth. Lowering the sugar in your diet is good for your teeth, as is brushing your teeth at least two to three times a day. Dry mouth can also cause abscesses and cavities so take measures if you have a chronically dry mouth.

Tooth abscesses are painful and can be costly, don’t wait if you think you have an abscess and take measures to keep your dental hygiene regular in your life. Our dental office located in Walled Lake MI is a full-service dental clinic ready and able to meet the needs of your dental health and dental concerns. We offer the latest technology in modern dentistry, including a comprehensive list of general, restorative and cosmetic dental care services to meet the needs of your entire family. Dr. Hechtman has been providing dental care for over 40 years to Michigan residents. Call today for a Free Dental Consult!