Dental abscesses can be painful but they can be treated relatively easily. A dental abscess is formed when the dental pulp in the middle of the tooth dies and the pulp chamber becomes infected. The build-up of pus can raise the tooth up within the socket, making it feel tender when you bite down.

Tooth abscesses can make your jaw ache and feel tender when you chew. If the abscess bursts, the pain may go, but you should still seek treatment. It’s important that you see your dentist to make sure the problem doesn’t come back. Your dentist will discuss with you the possibilities of placing a root filling in the tooth to prevent this from happening.

Abscesses occur when tooth decay is left untreated and reaches the dental pulp (the inside of the tooth which holds the blood supply and the nerves), which then becomes infected and dies. The bacteria then spread into the root of the tooth to form an abscess. Avoiding treatment or putting it off may be one of the reasons for an abscess starting.

Dental abscesses are fairly easy to diagnose – for example, you may find that pain is worse if you are pressing or chewing on the affected tooth. If the pain is less easy to define, your dentist will tap the teeth to determine which one is tender. The dentist may use an x-ray as part of the diagnosis, although the early stages of an abscess may not show.

To be able to treat a tooth with an abscess your dentist will first need to deal with the infection. The dentist is likely to drain the abscess, then perform a procedure known as root canal. This involves putting in a root filling to block off the pulp and the nerve canal and will stop the infection from the abscess is severe, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics.

Because the dentist will have had to drill into the tooth for the root canal treatment, they will then need to restore it with a normal filling or crown.