If teeth are not effectively cleaned by brushing and flossing, a substance called plaque builds up around the teeth. Plaque is a filmy substance made up of bacteria and other debris that clings to the teeth and gums causing decay. The acids released by the decaying bacteria in plaque erode tooth enamel, the hard protective coating that covers the teeth. It makes small holes in the enamel known as cavities, which can require dental fillings.
If the cavities are not filled, the plaque will eventually penetrate to the centre of the tooth. Here it will erode away the pulp or dentine that fills the centre of teeth and eventually attack the nerve located at its centre. This can lead to a very painful infection which can be responsible for tooth loss. The infection is also capable of spreading to other parts of the mouth and even entering the bloodstream where research has shown it can cause heart problems.
The body’s natural response to infection is to bombard it with white blood cells. These white blood cells gather around the infected material and attempt to kill the infection. This creates a yellow substance called pus, which can build up in large and painful abscesses in the gum. This swelling can be very sensitive and make everyday activities like eating and drinking very unpleasant.
The first sign of a tooth abscess is usually a toothache but if the infection has killed the nerve there may be no pain but there can still be an infection present in the tooth. It is always essential to see a dentist even if a toothache seems to have gone away by itself.
Other signs that you may be suffering from a tooth abscess are a foul odour and a bitter, unpleasant taste in the mouth. This may be accompanied by a general feeling of nausea. The pain from the ache will usually get much worse when exposed to extremes of hot and cold, especially when eating.
Over-the-counter pain remedies such as paracetemol can help with the pain and can keep tooth abscesses under control and swilling salt water also helps, but only a visit to a dentist will beat the underlying causes of the infection. Any delay in treatment can give the infection valuable time to spread making the consequences of a tooth abscess much more severe. In extreme circumstances tooth abscesses can require admission to hospital and even painful oral surgery. Make an appointment to see a dentist as soon as possible if you suspect a tooth abscess. Call 01245 268 494 for a free consultation at Advance Dental Clinic in Chelmsford.