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 Medical Self-Care: Tooth Abscess 
 
A tooth abscess is formed when there is inflammation and/or infection in the bone and/or the tooth's canals. This generally occurs in a tooth that has a deep cavity, a very deep filling or one that has been injured. The pain caused by an abscessed tooth can be persistent, throbbing and severe. Other symptoms include fever, earache and swelling of the glands on one side of the face or neck. It can also cause a general ill feeling, bad breath and a foul taste in the mouth.

A tooth abscess is usually treated with either a root canal or by pulling the tooth. A root canal is done if the dentist thinks the tooth can be saved. The infection is first removed either through a hole drilled through the top of the tooth or through an incision made in the gums at the site of the infection. These measures relieve the pain and pressure caused by a tooth abscess. An antibiotic will also be prescribed.

Tooth abscesses, for the most part, can be prevented with regular dental care. This includes daily brushing (with a fluoride toothpaste) and flossing and regular dental check-ups and cleanings.



Self-Care Tips
  • To reduce pain, take aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication containing salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger unless directed by a physician, due to its association with Reye's Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.]
  • Hold an ice pack on the jaw. This will relieve some of the pain.
  • Never place a crushed aspirin on the tooth. Aspirin burns the gums and destroys tooth enamel. [Note: Do not give aspirin or any medication containing salicylates to anyone 19 years of age or younger unless directed by a physician due to its association with Reye's Syndrome, a potentially fatal condition.]
  • Do not drink extremely hot or cold liquids.
  • Do not chew gum.
  • Avoid sweets and hot and spicy foods. A liquid diet may be necessary for a day or two until the pain subsides.
  • Gargle with warm salt water every hour.
  • See a dentist even if the pain subsides.


Questions to Ask
Do you have one or more of these problems with the toothache?
  • Continuous or throbbing pain
  • Fever
  • Earache
  • Neck or jaw tenderness or swollen glands in the side where the tooth aches
  • General ill feeling
  • Bad breath and/or foul taste in the mouth
Yes: See Doctor
No
Does the pain come and go or only occur when you are eating or drinking? Yes: Call Doctor
No
Provide Self-Care


Healthy Self: The Guide to Self-Care and Wise Consumerism
© American Institute for Preventive Medicine
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Disclaimer: The information provided on HealthWorld Online is for educational purposes only and IS NOT intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek professional medical advice from your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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