Treatment of an abscessed tooth
An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus, usually caused by some kind of infection and the spread of bacteria from the root of the tooth to the tissue just below or near the tooth.
In general, a tooth that has become abscessed is one whose underlying pulp (the tooth’s nerve) has become infected or swollen. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue, and lies within the tooth. It extends from the crown of the tooth, to the tip of the root, in the bone of the jaws.
An abscessed tooth can be an extremely painful condition, or ironically can be infected with no pain at all. This “silent abscess” is usually first visible on a radiograph and quite surprising to patients.
In some cases, antibiotics are administered in an attempt to reduce an infection.
Antibiotics are an ineffective cure for an abscess. Once infected, the inner portion of the tooth has no blood supply. Since antibiotics are carried by blood, you may temporarily reduce the infection around the tooth, but it will not be cured.
So how do you handle and abscessed tooth?
To cure the abscess, the infection inside the tooth must be removed.
To keep the tooth (if there is enough tooth remaining to keep), removal of the infection is accomplished by cleaning out the inside of the tooth. This is known as root canal therapy. Contrary to popular belief, root canal therapy is usually quite comfortable. Our patients are positively surprised. After root canal therapy, the tooth is brittle, so a crown is placed to preserve the tooth.
If you choose to not complete root canal therapy, the infection is removed by removal of your entire tooth. Then you choose how you would like that tooth replaced, usually an implant or bridge.
Root canal therapy is the only way to keep a tooth which would otherwise have to be extracted.