What is an abscessed tooth?

What is an abscessed tooth?

Abscessed teeth are common and many people suffer from them and are treated without ever really understanding what’s going on with their teeth. This common expression – an abscessed tooth –  most likely means a few different things. It universally implies infection, which is the presence of bacteria in the pulp (or the most interior aspect) of a tooth. That bacteria may also extend to the bone just beyond your tooth.

Bacteria usually first enters a tooth through a cavity in the visible part of the tooth – yet another reason to visit your dentist regularly to treat cavities and other dental health issues as soon as they crop up!  Most people will get a toothache at this stage, which is often the first indication that something is wrong. There may be a very small abscess in the pulp of the tooth at this point. Not all people will get a toothache, and sometimes people that have had a toothache will find that the toothache just goes away.  In these cases, the bacteria will move further into the pulp of the tooth and follow the root to its tip. At the tip of the root there is a tiny hole, allowing the bacteria to travel through and enter the bone.

Once the bacteria are in the bone, a person’s immune system will try to wall off the infection. A variety of symptoms may develop depending on who ‘wins the war’ between the bacterial invasion and your immune system. These symptoms can involve pain on biting, swelling, and tenderness to pressure above the tooth. More severe generalized pain and swelling can develop on the affected side. Quite frequently it is difficult to determine which tooth is the problem.

Treating an abscessed tooth involves root canal treatment or extraction. Unfortunately, once a tooth is abscessed, it is already too late for a filling.

If you think you have an abscessed tooth, please contact our office and request an appointment. Our office is located downtown Vancouver at 555 West Georgia.

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