Severe dental abscesses can be agonising, but did you know that there are different stages to a tooth abscess? Each stage has unique symptoms and varying levels of pain. This article will explain the abscessed tooth stages, their causes, and how we can treat them with the help of emergency dentist.


What is a Dental Abscess?

A dental abscess is an infection in the mouth that develops mainly in the pulp of the tooth. It is caused by a bacterial infection and can be painful due to the pressure built up because of the infection. Often, this pressure results in sharp throbbing or piercing pain which can cause discomfort and difficulty eating.


Types of Dental Abscess

There are three main types of dental abscesses: 


Gingival abscess

This type of abscess involves an infection in the gum tissue surrounding the tooth. 


SYDNEY dental implants Periodontal abscess

A periodontal abscess occurs when a pocket between the teeth and gums becomes infected. This can cause pain as well as swelling of the area, redness, and bad breath. 


Periapical abscess

This type of abscess affects the root tip of a tooth and often results in pain that radiates to other parts of the face or head.


What causes an abscessed tooth?

The mouth naturally contains bacteria that turn into plaque on teeth and gums when not cleaned properly. Infections develop in the teeth when the acid of the plaque begins to decay or becomes trapped in the gums.

However, the main reason for tooth abscesses is untreated tooth decay that is left to spread.

There are other possible reasons that could cause the infection, including:

  1. Gum disease (gingivitis).
  2. Injuries & damage: Bacteria can spread to deeper parts of the teeth or gums through injuries, dental damage, or deep tooth cracks.
  3. Trauma.
  4. Rough tooth brushing or flossing.
  5. Food stuck between teeth and gums.
  6. Complications from dental surgery such as implants, root canal treatment and extractions.

Due to the increased build-up of plaque, people with poor dental hygiene are more susceptible to dental abscesses. If you have any surgery or injure your teeth and gums, this delicate area in your mouth becomes exposed to bacteria, and this increases the chance of infection.


Stages of Tooth Abscess

An abscessed tooth can be categorised into five stages based on the severity of the infection: 



Stage 1: Enamel Decay

This is the first stage of an abscessed tooth. It involves a mild form of decay that may not be visible to the naked eye.

Generally, this happens when bad oral hygiene has led to bacterial growth in the mouth and around the teeth. Symptoms of this stage include tooth sensitivity and discolouration.


Stage 2: Dentin Decay

Dentin is the layer of tissue beneath the enamel that gives teeth their strength and colour. Once bacteria reach the dentin, it begins to dissolve, which can cause pain and increased sensitivity in the affected area.

This can be treated with root canal therapy or a dental crown if needed, but it’s important to note that this stage requires professional treatment.


Stage 3: Pulpitis

At this point, the infection has reached into the innermost part of the tooth—the pulp—resulting in inflammation. The pulp is responsible for supplying blood, nerves and other nutrients to the tooth, so when it becomes inflamed, it can lead to pain and discomfort.


Stage 4: Abscess formation

At this stage, an abscess has formed at the root of the tooth, and pus is present in the gums around the affected area. This pus can cause a foul smell, discomfort and swelling that may be visible from the outside of the mouth. Additionally, due to pressure on surrounding nerves, facial swelling may occur.


Stage 5: Tooth loss

By this stage, you’ll be experiencing discomfort or pain. It is a sign that your dental abscess needs medical attention to be treated before the condition worsens. If a dental abscess is left untreated, the abscess can cause bone erosion and lead to tooth loss.


Tooth Abscess Symptoms

Common symptoms of a dental abscess can be very painful and include: Severe, constant toothache can spread to your jawbone, neck, and ears.

  • Swelling in the face or neck may lead to difficulty in breathing or chewing.
  • Fever.
  • Bad taste in the mouth.
  • Foul breath.
  • Extreme sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck.

These dental abscess symptoms develop rapidly and can deliver a high level of pain within only a few hours. Children experience the same type of infection and discomfort.

Note that patients may experience an initial toothache, which then fades. It would be easy to assume that the problem is gone, but this, unfortunately, is not always the case. Your tooth pulp cannot heal itself, but once the nerve is destroyed, you will likely not experience any pain.

The infection has probably only spread through the dead tooth and into the surrounding gums and tissue, causing the symptoms to eventually re-appear. However, by the time this happens, more extensive damage has occurred.


Tooth abscess treatment


infection dental abscess southportRoot Canal Therapy

The most common treatment for dental abscesses is root canal therapy, which removes the infected pulp and cleans the inside of your tooth.

During this procedure, a dentist drills through the top of your tooth to reach the infection. The pulp is then removed and replaced with an inert material such as gutta-percha. Depending on the extent of damage to your teeth, you may need a crown or other restoration after root canal therapy. 


Gum Abscess Drainage

In severe cases, gum abscess drainage may be necessary to remove debris from deep pockets around affected teeth. This involves making small incisions in the gums and draining any accumulated pus or infected material. Antibiotics are also often prescribed both before and after these procedures to reduce inflammation and control infection.


Taking care of your teeth is important to prevent abscesses from forming in the first place, so be sure to brush and floss regularly, as well as visit your dentist for check-ups. If you experience any tooth abscess symptoms, it’s important to get treatment right away before the infection spreads and causes further damage. Taking these steps can help you avoid more serious complications like facial swelling or gum disease.

If you suspect you may have a tooth abscess or any other issue in need of a dentist’s attention, contact the friendly team at Southport Park Family Dental on (07) 5655 7688 today to schedule an appointment. We can diagnose your dental problem and provide treatment and quick relief from pain.






Tooth Abscess

Dental Abscess Guide: Tooth Infection Symptoms, Causes and Treatments.

Dental Abscess

Dental Abscess

Dental Abscess

What to know about the stages of tooth decay and abscesses

Dental Infections

Dental Health





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