A tooth abscess is a sac of infected material called pus in a tooth or the gums.
A tooth abscess is caused by bacteria. It begins when bacteria invade and infect a tooth. This results in pus build-up. When the pus is unable to drain, an abscess results.
Conditions that allow bacteria to invade a tooth include:
Factors that may increase your chance of a tooth abscess include:
A tooth abscess may cause:
If left untreated, complications of tooth abscess include:
Your dentist will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A detailed exam of your teeth and gums will be done.
Images may need to be taken of the tooth and surrounding bone. This can be done with x-rays.
A sample of the abscess fluid may be taken and tested.
Academy of General Dentistry
Mouth Healthy—American Dental Association
Canadian Dental Association
The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Abscess (toothache). American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/a/abscess. Accessed March 18, 2013.
Acute apical dental abscess. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T435303/Acute-apical-dental-abscess. Updated March 31, 2015. Accessed September 14, 2016.
Beers MH, Fletcher AJ. The Merck Manual of Medical Information—Home Edition. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.
Dental abscess. NHSinform website. Available at: http://www.nhsinform.com/health-library/articles/d/dental-abscess/introduction. Updated October 4, 2011. Accessed March 18, 2013.
Root canals. American Dental Association Mouth Healthy website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/r/root-canals. Accessed March 18, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.