What is periodontal abscess?

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Periodontal abscess: Overview

A periodontal abscess is a pocket of pus in the tissues of the gum. It looks like a small red ball pushing out of the swollen gum.

An abscess can occur with serious gum disease (periodontitis), which causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. This leaves deep pockets where bacteria can grow. If tartar builds up too much, or if food gets stuck in the pockets, pus forms. If the pus can't drain, it forms an abscess.

An abscess can cause a fever and a throbbing pain in nearby teeth. It can also cause long-term damage to your teeth and gums. The teeth may get loose and fall out. The infection can spread to another part of your body.

In most cases, your dentist will give you antibiotics to stop the infection. He or she may need to cut open (lance) the abscess so that the infection can drain. This should relieve your pain. You may also need more dental treatment, such as tooth removal or oral surgery to fix bone damage caused by the abscess.

How can you care for yourself after a periodontal abscess?

  • Reduce pain and swelling in your face and jaw by putting ice or a cold pack on the outside of your cheek for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Take your antibiotics as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

To prevent periodontal abscess

  • Brush and floss every day, and have regular dental checkups.
  • Eat a healthy diet, and avoid sugary foods and drinks.
  • Do not smoke or use spit tobacco. Tobacco use slows your ability to heal. It also increases your risk for gum disease and cancer of the mouth and throat. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.

Periodontal abscess: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have trouble breathing.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.