I Think I Have an Abcess — What Should I Do?

I Think I Have an Abcess — What Should I Do?

A dental abscess is a painful and potentially serious condition that requires prompt attention. An abscess can affect any area of your mouth, including your wisdom teeth, your gums, or even your anterior teeth.

Not sure if you’re dealing with an abscess? Because they can escalate quickly, it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you suspect you have an abscess, reach out to Kevin Miller, DDS, and our team at Dentistry in Paradise in Santa Barbara, California, as soon as possible. 

Here, we explain more about abscesses, their common symptoms, and the steps you should take if you think you have one.

What is a dental abscess?

An abscess is a localized collection of pus (liquor puris), a thick fluid that contains dead white blood cells, bacteria, and tissue debris. Abscesses can form in different parts of your body, including your skin, internal organs, and even in your mouth or gums. They’re often caused by bacterial infections.

Dental abscesses may be the result of trauma, severe decay, or secondary infections after a procedure. There are three types of dental abscesses:

Each type of abscess may cause different symptoms. For example, a gingival abscess may form a pimple-like bump on your gums. Other symptoms of dental abscess include pain, fever, foul breath, bad taste in your mouth, and facial swelling.

What to do if you suspect you have an abscess 

If you think you might have an abscess, the first step is to call Dr. Miller. Depending on what type of abscess you have, you may need antibiotics or a root canal (in the case of periapical abscesses). 

In addition to scheduling an urgent dental appointment, keep these tips in mind:

Don’t squeeze or pop the abscess 

If your abscess presents as a pimple-like bump, it may be tempting to try and squeeze or pop the abscess to release the pus. However, this can worsen the infection, lead to complications, and introduce even more bacteria into the area.

If the abscess bursts on its own, clean your mouth with a salt-water rinse. You might feel some relief if it opens, but you’ll still need proper dental care to fully address the infection. 

Maintain good oral hygiene

Keep the affected area clean while you wait for your appointment. Continue to brush your teeth, use mouthwash, and, if needed, use salt water rinses. 

Try over-the-counter pain relief

Pain relievers like NSAIDs, acetaminophen, and aspirin can help alleviate discomfort and reduce fever. Follow the recommended dosage. 

Apply a cold compress

If your face is swollen, apply a cold compress on the outside of your cheek to help reduce swelling. Use a tea towel or another cloth to protect your skin from direct contact with the ice. 

Don’t delay dental care

These at-home care strategies are only intended to temporarily provide relief while you wait for professional dental treatment. Abscesses can worsen if you don’t get treatment promptly. They may require drainage or other dental procedures, such as a root canal, and you might need antibiotics. 

Getting treatment for an abscess is essential to prevent complications, and the sooner you seek dental care, the sooner you can experience relief. To make an appointment with Dr. Miller, call our office at 805-967-0272.

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