Sometimes a toothache fades away, and sometimes it will grow in intensity until a dentist intervenes. The trouble is, you can't predict how the toothache will develop when you start to feel those first signs of discomfort. Any toothache has an underlying cause that should be checked out by your dentist, but there are some toothaches that can be the sign of a serious infection, which has the potential to endanger your health. Do you know how to identify an abscessed tooth?
A Bacterial Infection
An abscessed tooth is caused by a bacterial infection that would have been developing for some time, although it will seem as though it appeared out of nowhere. The bacterial infection may have developed within the pulp of a damaged tooth, or in the gingival tissues surrounding the base of the tooth. A toothache (particularly one responsive to bite pressure) is one of the first signs of an abscessed tooth.
The surface of your gums will redden and become inflamed around the site of the abscess. You may also notice the formation of an intraoral dental sinus (also called a parulis). This is a small lesion that resembles a pimple. It has similar anatomy to a pimple, in that it contains pus. It's likely to hurt, and you must not aggravate it. Sometimes a parulis will rupture and discharge its contents into your mouth, which will alleviate your discomfort, but this does not mean that the infection is under control.
A Worsening Infection
You may be wondering by this point if the abscess will get any worse, and this is a real possibility. Over-the-counter pain relief and other measures (such as a cold compress) will have little (or no) effect. The exterior of your face can swell as the infection spreads, and you're likely to feel a sense of fatigue. Adjacent glands and lymph nodes may also swell as your body attempts to combat the infection. These indicate that the infection is overwhelming your body, and you need urgent dental care. See an emergency dentist if your abscess should develop outside of regular working hours. The important thing is that you don't delay.
A dentist will make an incision in the parulis in order to drain it, which will bring immediate relief. It's important that this procedure is performed under sterile conditions so that the infection isn't made worse. You will also require antibiotics, and given the fact that over-the-counter pain relief isn't sufficiently strong by this point, your dentist may provide you with prescription pain medication. You will need further dental work (to correct the issue that allowed the formation of the abscess), but this is generally delayed until the antibiotics have managed the infection.
Untreated dental abscesses can actually be rather dangerous, so if you should suspect that one is forming, you must consult a dentist.
For more information, dental practices like Whitehills Dental Practice can help.