Very little in life hurts like a major toothache caused by an abcess!
An abscessed tooth is an infected tooth that generally occurs between the root and the gum and can come on either gradually or suddenly. The major signs are: localized pain in the mouth, fever, swelling, a foul taste and swollen neck (cervical) glands. Ideally, a dentist is the healthcare professional best suited to take care of a tooth abscess, but often times getting an emergency appointment with your dentist can be virtually impossible. Primary care providers can help with getting the infection under control, relieving pain and other symptoms, but all abscessed teeth should eventually be evaluated and treated by a dentist ASAP. Here are things you can do in the meantime.
1. If you have developed an abscessed tooth and cannot get in to see your dentist immediately, attempt to get a same-day appointment with your medical provider or go to the nearest emergency room. However, the best option is a dentist. Your regular medical provider or the ER (unless they have a dentist or oral surgeon on call) will typically only be able to treat the symptoms. Diagnostics and dental treatment needs to be done by a dentist.
2. If you are not allergic or have other contraindications, take some over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or Tylenol. They may reduce the pain to a tolerable level. However, it is not uncommon to need a healthcare provider to prescribe a short course of narcotics to relieve acute pain.
3. Gargle with warm salt water or an oral rinse that has been recommended by your dentist or pharmacist. Warm water gargles are not only soothing, but help reduce inflammation that causes pain, and helps rinse out some of the bacteria that is causing the problem.
4. Apply warm compresses to the infection site on the jaw line, which may also be helpful.
5. Your dentist or medical provider may prescribe antibiotics to help with reducing the infection, which in turn helps with pain and swelling. However, as previously stated, more advance interventions may be needed as determined by your dentist.
6. Do not ignore an abscessed tooth. It will not “go away.” Pain killers and antibiotics may make it feel better, but if there is an infection in the root, more extensive treatment by a dentist will most likely be necessary.