A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that's caused by a bacterial infection. The abscess can occur at different regions of the tooth for different reasons. A periapical (per-e-AP-ih-kul) abscess occurs at the tip of the root, whereas a periodontal (per-e-o-DON-tul) abscess occurs in the gums next to a tooth root. The information here refers specifically to periapical abscesses.
A periapical tooth abscess usually occurs as a result of an untreated dental cavity, an injury or prior dental work.
Dentists will treat a tooth abscess by draining it and getting rid of the infection. They may be able to save your tooth with a root canal treatment, but in some cases the tooth may need to be pulled. Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can lead to serious, even life-threatening, complications.
Aug. 16, 2017
- AskMayoExpert. Dental abscess. Rochester, Minn.: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; 2015.
- Abscess (toothache). MouthHealthy. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/a/abscess. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
- Abscessed teeth. American Association of Endodontists. http://www.aae.org/patients/symptoms/abscessed-teeth.aspx. Accessed Jan 4, 2016.
- Periapical abscess. Merck Manual Consumer Version. http://www.merckmanuals.com/home/mouth-and-dental-disorders/tooth-disorders/periapical-abscess. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
- 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.
- Children's oral health: Abscess. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www2.aap.org/oralhealth/pact/ch9_sect1.cfm. Accessed Jan 4, 2016.
- Robertson DP, et al. Management of severe acute dental infections. BMJ. 2015;350:h1300.
- Laudenbach JM, et al. Common dental and periodontal diseases. Medical Clinics of North America. 2014;98:1239.
- Root canals. MouthHealthy. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/r/root-canals. Accessed Jan. 4, 2016.
- 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.
- 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.
- Salinas TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 3, 2016.