One of the more common types of abscesses are those that occur in the mouth, i.e. a gum abscess. This piece is an intro to this infection, how it arises, how to spot it and what to do if you get an abscess on your gum.
The gums are of course the tissues that surrounds the teeth. If you neglect to care for your mouth, you are at risk of many dental problems and one is the formation of infection. Abscess is the formation and collection of pus, due to an infection.
Gum Abscess Causes
There are many causative factors that can result in a gum abscess:
- Tooth decay – The break down of teeth due to diet and plaque bacteria. If tooth decay spreads to the pulp (inside of the tooth), this can leas to death of the tooth nerve. Bacteria can accumulate in the space where the nerve was. This bacterial infection can lead to pus pouring out of the bottom of the root. The pus gathers under the tooth and we have an abscess on gum.
- Gum disease – The more severe stage, known as periodontal disease, can result in gum abscesses. As periodontal disease is itself down to bacterial infection, the bacteria can easily accumulate to lead to abscesses when conditions are right.
- Trauma – This can lead to tooth nerve death and again an abscess may form if the conditions are right. Other types of soft tissue trauma can also directly lead to an infection, such as food damaging the gum or orthodontic wires traumatizing the soft tissues.
- Suppressed immune system and infection – the immune system can become weakened due to a disease or a side effect of medications or therapy (such as chemotherapy, radiation). In such circumstances the protective capabilities of are bodies against infection are reduced. Therefore during these times, microorganisms will be opportunistic and take advantage of the decreased fighting ability of our body. These harmful bacteria and other microorganisms will create infection. This is one of the factors causing oral infections.
- Foreign object – food is the most common foreign object that can lodge in the gums and lead to infection. Children are also prone to chewing on hard objects which may get stuck in the gums. Even cases of nails (from nail-biting) have been documented.
Gum Abscess Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of gum abscess can include:
- Swollen and/or bleeding gums
- One or both cheeks are swollen
- Presence of pus draining or oozing from the gums
- Discoloration of the gums – the abscess are usually red, with yellowish substance inside
- Difficulty and/or pain on opening mouth and eating
- Sensitivity to hot or cold beverages
- Lack of appetite
- Fever or chills, with more severe infection.
Gum Abscess Treatment
If you have or think you have the problem, get to a dentist! Here, a thorough oral assessment is performed. In addition, the infection may be confirmed with X-Ray. The X-Ray will help detect the source and extent of any infection, and help guide the treatment plan.
Treatments can be pharmacological, i.e the use of medications to fight the infection. The other main option is surgical intervention, i.e. draining the pus and treating any disease (like a rotting tooth). There are also things you can do at home to help relieve the pain of an oral infection. Gum abscess home treatment options include:
- Increase your water intake
- Rinse with warm-salty water to help clean out the infection
- Stick to a soft diet such as soups, oatmeal, jelly
- Apply ice packs to decrease any swelling
Dental Treatment for Gum Abscess
Your dentist may give you drugs to fight the infection.The pharmacological treatments include antibiotics for gum abscess. Get a proper diagnosis and prescription from your dentist. Self-medication is not advised. Your dentist will also need to address the cause of any infection. So dental treatment may include:
- Tooth extraction
- Root canal treatment
- Periodontal treatment
- Removal of any foreign objects such as food
- Draining the pus
To prevent acquiring gum abscess in the first place or to prevent it from recurring, you need to look after your oral health! Here is a list of what you can do to optimize your oral health:
- Oral hygiene – regular brushing of teeth and flossing daily
- Regular visits to the dentist – once every 6 months or more if recommended
- Smoking cessation
- Decrease intake of alcohol, sweets and sugary drinks
- Increase water intake