When Does a Dental Abscess Become an Emergency?

dental abscess Chandler, AZ

A dental abscess is an infection that starts in the mouth and can affect other parts of the body. An abscess usually starts as a gum infection, tooth infection or cavity. People who practice poor oral hygiene are significantly at risk of having a dental abscess.

When is a dental abscess considered an emergency?

A dental abscess is caused by the growth of the bacteria from an existing cavity into the soft tissues and bones of the face and neck. The bacteria from the cavity can extend to the gums, throat, cheek, tongue and facial bone. It can be very painful when the tissues are inflamed.

The pus that builds up at the site of the infection will gradually become more painful until it either drains on its own or is drained surgically. In some cases, the infection can progress to the point where the swelling may block the airway, causing difficulty breathing. Dental abscesses can also make people generally ill, with fevers, vomiting, chills and sweats.

In addition to being caused by poor oral hygiene, a dental abscess can also be caused because the patient has a poor diet, smokes, drinks, or has certain medical conditions that can increase risk of cavities to form in the teeth. The infection may then spread to the gums and adjacent areas and become a painful dental abscess.

What are the symptoms of a dental abscess?

Some of the symptoms of a dental abscess include:

  • Redness of the face
  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Cavities
  • Gum inflammation
  • Oral swelling
  • Difficulty breathing

When should I seek emergency care if I have an abscess?

People who think they have a dental abscess should schedule an appointment with their dentist to get checked out to confirm if they do have the disease. If their dentist is unavailable, patients should go to the nearest emergency dentist. The patient should seek emergency help if the infection has become so painful and cannot be managed with over-the-counter medication. If the patient has developed a fever, has chills, is vomiting, or exhibiting other symptoms of having a dental abscess. And lastly, if the patient is in intolerable pain, has difficulty breathing or swallowing.

How do dentists test for an abscess?

A dentist can determine if a patient has a drainable abscess by performing a physical examination of the patient. In some cases, X-rays may be needed to show small abscesses that are at the deepest part of the tooth.

How is a dental abscess treated?

If the dentist determines that the abscess is drainable, they will cut it open and allow the pus to drain. The dentist may also drain the abscess through the infected tooth at the start of a root canal procedure. In some cases, the abscess ruptures on its own. People who have dental abscesses are typically prescribed pain relievers and antibiotics to fight the infection.


A dental abscess is an infection that can cause a lot of pain, which is one of the reasons why it is important to practice good oral hygiene. If you have an abscess and are in a lot of pain, schedule an appointment with your dentist to get the abscess drained.

Request an appointment here: or call Impressions Dental at (480) 814-8888 for an appointment in our Chandler office.