What Happens to Cavities Left Untreated: Dental Abscesses

What’s a dental abscess? Why does a toothache worsen? Your Plano and Frisco dentist, Dr. Jennings, explains:

If you have a toothache, you may simply have food stuck between your teeth, in which case a thorough flossing will relieve the pain. However, a toothache is also a classic symptom of a cavity, fracture, or internal infection. Left untreated, these common dental maladies won’t resolve themselves. Unlike human skin and bones, human teeth don’t heal naturally. So what might happen if you let a cavity or crack go untreated?

The bacteria that cause tooth decay will multiply and continue their damage, so a cavity grows wider, deeper, and can even spread to adjacent teeth. More commonly, a cavity will deepen until it infiltrates the sterile interior of a tooth, the canal, which houses the tooth’s nerve. If bacterial infection invades the tooth’s canal, that tooth will die unless it can be salvaged with a root canal procedure. A deep crack (fracture) can also allow bacteria to invade the tooth’s canal.

While the pain of an internally infected tooth can be acute, some people try to treat their discomfort with over-the-counter pain relievers. Left to continue, the infection inside a tooth can lead to a periapical abscess.

What is an abscess?

A dental abscess is an infection signified by a collection of pus at the base of a tooth or in the gum or bone tissue. In short, an abscess is the result of untreated infection in the teeth or gums.

There are three types of abscesses. Periapical abscesses, the most common, occur at the base, or apex, of a tooth, and are usually caused by a situation similar to that described above. A gingival abscess is confined to the gum tissue, and a periodontal abscess involves gum tissue and bone tissue, and is a lateral periodontal abscess. Gingival and periodontal abscesses are usually caused by untreated, infected periodontal pockets.

Symptoms of an Abscess

If you’ve had a toothache for some time, and you’re concerned that you may now have an abscess, consider whether you present these symptoms:

  • Pain when chewing, biting, or touching the area
  • Sensitivity to temperature fluctuations (such as with foods)
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Feeling tired, feverish, and unwell
  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty sleeping because of pain

Untreated Abscesses

Should you have an abscess and not seek treatment, you risk further complications. These include but are not limited to dental cysts, osteomyetis, cavernous sinus thrombosis, Ludwig’s angina, and maxillary sinusitis.

If you have a toothache, don’t delay seeing Dr. Jennings. At our comfortable Frisco dentist office, you’ll have access to a highly trained, compassionate group of dental professionals who can determine the source of your discomfort and recommend treatment.

Source: Medical News Today