A periodontal abscess looks like a pimple pushing out of the swollen gum. It can occur with severe gum disease, and it needs immediate treatment.
An abscess, or a pocket of pus, can develop anywhere on the body, but it’s common to grow on the gums. Called a periodontal abscess, it is extremely painful and ranks as the third most common reason patients make an emergency visit to their dentist.
The good news is that a periodontal abscess can be successfully treated if you recognize the symptoms and immediately call your dentist.
What is a periodontal abscess, and what causes it?
A periodontal abscess is a bacterial infection rooted in the gums. The primary cause of an abscess is poor dental hygiene, which allows bacteria and plaque to grow on the gum tissue. As bacteria flourishes, a pocket of pus forms on the gums. However, teeth damaged by injury or constant teeth grinding can also lead to infected gums.
The most noticeable sign of an abscess is a pimple or bump on the gum line. It may or may not feel painful and tender. Bad breath, pain when chewing, and sensitivity often accompany a periodontal abscess. Other symptoms include swollen lymph glands in the neck and jaw and an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
A periodontal abscess is one sign of periodontal disease, which causes severe weakening of the gum tissue and bones supporting the teeth. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates more than 47 percent of adults over age 30 have some form of periodontal disease, putting them at high risk of an abscess.
A periodontal abscess differs from a periapical abscess, which refers to a bacterial infection in the inner pulp of the tooth. Both conditions require immediate treatment to stop the spread of the infection.
How a periodontal abscess is treated
Although gargling with salt and warm water may briefly relieve the pain, a periodontal abscess cannot be treated at home. Do not try to “pop” it. Only a dentist or periodontist specializing in gum disease can treat an abscess.
Your dentist will review your symptoms and examine your gums. An X-ray might also be used to see how far the infection has spread. Treatment typically involves three steps:
- Drainage. A small cut made in the abscess allows the infection to drain.
- Treatment. To thoroughly clean the bacteria, your dentist may perform a scaling and root planing procedure. In more advanced cases of gum disease, surgery may be necessary.
- Medication. Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to prevent the spread of the infection or a new infection from developing.
An abscess won’t go away on its own. Without treatment, your bones and gum tissues will weaken to the point where tooth loss is possible.
An untreated periodontal abscess can also have consequences beyond your oral health. The infection can spread to your blood and cause a dangerous infection known as sepsis. Heart inflammation, pneumonia, and a brain abscess have also been linked to a periodontal abscess. So if you think you have an abscess, call your dentist immediately.
An abscess and the complications that may follow can be avoided with good oral hygiene practices. Brushing and flossing daily reduces the amount of bacteria and plaque on your teeth and gums. If you grind your teeth at night, ask your dentist for a mouthguard to protect your teeth from damage.
And schedule your twice-yearly dentist cleanings! While you can brush away most of the bacteria and plaque, you cannot remove tartar, a hardened substance that damages gums. These visits also allow your dentist to check your gums for early signs of gum disease, a stage when it’s most treatable.
Get your gums checked in Oklahoma City
Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Oklahoma City, OK, location today! Our highly trained dentists have years of experience treating periodontal disease and abscesses. Don’t live near our Oklahoma City office? Find one of our other locations near you.
Oklahoma City, OK
12448 St Andrews Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73120