In addition to examining your tooth and the surrounding area, your dentist may:

  • Tap on your teeth. A tooth that has an abscess at its root is generally sensitive to touch or pressure.
  • Recommend an X-ray. An X-ray of the aching tooth can help identify an abscess. Your dentist may also use X-rays to determine whether the infection has spread, causing abscesses in other areas.
  • Recommend a CT scan. If the abscess has spread to other areas within the neck, a CT scan may be used to assess the extent of the infection.
Aug. 16, 2017
  1. AskMayoExpert. Dental abscess. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
  2. Abscess (toothache). MouthHealthy. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/a/abscess. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
  3. Abscessed teeth. American Association of Endodontists. http://www.aae.org/patients/symptoms/abscessed-teeth.aspx. Accessed Jan 4, 2016.
  4. Periapical abscess. Merck Manual Consumer Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mouth-and-dental-disorders/tooth-disorders/periapical-abscess. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
  5. Toothache and infection. Merck Manual Professional Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dental-disorders/symptoms-of-dental-and-oral-disorders/toothache-and-infection. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
  6. Children's oral health: Abscess. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www2.aap.org/oralhealth/pact/ch9_sect1.cfm. Accessed Jan 4, 2016.
  7. Robertson DP, et al. Management of severe acute dental infections. BMJ. 2015;350:h1300.
  8. Laudenbach JM, et al. Common dental and periodontal diseases. Medical Clinics of North America. 2014;98:1239.
  9. Root canals. MouthHealthy. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/r/root-canals. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
  10. The tooth decay process: How to reverse it and avoid a cavity. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/OralHealthInformation/ChildrensOralHealth/ToothDecayProcess.htm#. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
  11. Toothbrush care: Cleaning, storing and replacement. American Dental Association. http://www.ada.org/en/about-the-ada/ada-positions-policies-and-statements/statement-on-toothbrush-care-cleaning-storage-and-. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
  12. Salinas TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 3, 2016.