Is a Periodontal Abscess a Dental Emergency?

Is a Periodontal Abscess a Dental Emergency?

Don’t ignore that bump on your gums! It’s likely a periodontal abscess and requires immediate dental care.

Suppose you’ve noticed a small, dark red bump on your gums. Since it’s not causing any pain, you may assume it will go away on its own. However, that bump is a periodontal abscess and needs to be treated immediately by a dentist to prevent further complications.

A periodontal abscess is a serious infection of the gum tissue. Aside from the pimple-like lump on the gum, the abscess can also cause a toothache, sensitivity, an unpleasant taste in your mouth, and bad breath. In addition, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and fever often accompany a periodontal abscess. Any of those symptoms require emergency dental therapy. Read on to learn why.

Who’s at risk of a periodontal abscess?

Poor dental hygiene is the leading cause of a periodontal abscess. Daily brushing and flossing remove most of the bacteria and plaque in your mouth. But when teeth aren’t cleaned routinely, bacteria and plaque build up on the teeth and gums. Bacteria can then infect the gums, causing periodontal disease and potentially an abscess. 

Around 35 percent of adults between the ages of 30 and 90 have periodontitis, or gum disease, putting them at heightened risk of a periodontal abscess. Other possible causes of an abscess include a diet high in sugar, injury, teeth grinding at night (bruxism), and ill-fitting dental devices such as crowns, dentures, and fillings. 

Treating a periodontal abscess

Do not try to “pop” the abscess at home. A periodontal abscess is a dental emergency that can only be treated by a dentist. This is especially true if you have a fever, chills, nausea, and difficulty swallowing. Therapy involves several treatment modes, such as:

  • Drainage. Your dentist will drain the abscess after making a small incision in the gums.
  • Scaling and root planing. To thoroughly clean the tooth and gums of bacteria, your dentist may perform a scaling and root planing procedure.
  • Antibiotics. To stop the infection from spreading, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics.
  • Root canal. If the infection has spread to the tooth root, a root canal may be necessary.
  • Extraction. In extreme cases, the infection may weaken the bone attached to the tooth. The tooth may become so loose it needs extraction.

Losing a tooth is one possible complication of an abscess, but there are others. If the bacteria spreads to the rest of the body, the resulting infection may lead to a blood infection known as sepsis. The infection may also damage the heart muscle, as many researchers believe the chronic inflammation caused by periodontal disease can also affect the heart negatively. While a definitive link between heart disease and gum disease has yet to be established, studies suggest an association between cardiovascular disease and gum disease. Other possible complications of gum disease include a brain abscess and pneumonia.

Preventing a periodontal abscess

Excellent dental hygiene habits are the most effective weapons against a periodontal abscess. Brushing at least twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush cleans most of the bacteria and plaque on your teeth. Flossing every night gets to the spaces between teeth where bacteria and food particles can hide.

Although daily brushing removes a good amount of the bacteria and plaque, you need a twice-annual tooth cleaning by a hygienist to rid you of damaging tartar, a leading cause of gum disease. But by far, the best way to ensure you don’t develop an abscess is to see your dentist regularly. They can treat gum disease at its earliest stage before it worsens.

Take care of your gums!

Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Colorado Springs location today! Our highly trained dentists can check your teeth and gums for any signs of disease or decay and start immediate treatment. Don’t live near our Colorado Springs office? Find one of our other locations near you.

Colorado Springs
8610 Explorer Drive #315
Colorado Springs, CO 80920