What is a dental abscess?

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What is a dental abscess?

A dental abscess is the most serious type of oral infection. They are usually the result of poor oral health, and a lack of proper oral care and hygiene.

Dental abscesses usually start as minor tooth or gum infections, but end up spreading to tissue and bones of your mouth, throat, jaw or face – if left untreated. They can seriously affect your health causing symptoms of fever, chills, sweats, nausea and/or vomiting in the case of severe infections.

Dental abscesses can affect other parts of your body

A severe abscess in the roots and gums of your upper teeth may potentially lead to a brain abscess – due to the brain’s close proximity. If your lower teeth and gums are infected, swelling caused by a dental abscess may constrict or block your airways.

Your heart and lungs also are also at risk of bacterial infection and inflammation caused by oral bacteria from a dental abscess.

If pathogenic oral bacteria penetrate the heart via the bloodstream, it may trigger infective endocarditis. Endocarditis is an inflammation of the heart valves and inner linings of the heart. This condition can permanently damage your heart.

If your lungs are infected by oral bacteria, you are at higher risk of pneumonia and other bacterial chest infections. Clinical research has found links between poor oral health and the development of lung infections and diseases. Researchers have discovered fine droplets containing oral bacteria could be inhaled from your mouth and throat, and transmitted to your lungs.


The two types of dental abscesses:

  • Tooth abscesses (periapical abscess) occur at the end of your teeth roots when your tooth nerve is dead or dying from infection. The resulting abscess can spread to surrounding teeth and jaw bones.
    Swelling may be experienced around the affected tooth, and in the surrounding areas of the head and neck. Sharp, throbbing pain, chewing difficulties, tenderness and hot/cold tooth sensitivity may be experienced. Emergency dental treatment usually involves prescribed antibiotics and follow-up dental treatment.
  • Gum abscesses (periodontal abscess) develop in spaces and pockets deep between your teeth and gums. The visible signs of a gum abscess include drainage of pus, redness and swelling of the affected area. Extreme pain and difficulty opening your mouth may be experienced.

    Gum abscesses can be drained, cleaned and treated by your dentist or dental hygienist quite easily.


Seeking emergency treatment for a dental abscess

Don’t wait until your gums are red, swollen and draining pus before seeing your dentist. If you suspect that you have a dental abscess, call your dentist as soon as possible.

If you experience symptoms of fever, chills, sweats, nausea and/or vomiting seek medical care at a hospital emergency department immediately.

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How to help in a sports dental emergency

How to help in a sports dental emergency

Every day, across Australia, millions of kids play sports. Each one of these sports has potential risks and dangers.

For example, sports activities are played on different surfaces, and a range of surroundings and environments. Weather conditions such as extreme heat, UV, cold, wind and rain can also impact on playing conditions. The nature of the sport and the conduct of the participating players are also potential factors that can increase the risk of injury.

In Australia, contact sports are increasing in popularity. Sport is part of our cultural identity. Our children are being encouraged to become involved more and more, at younger and younger ages. As a result, dental mouthguards have emerged as the most popular and effective type of protective equipment to prevent oral injuries during play.

Children Sport Dental Emergency

But even with the right education in sports safety and accident prevention for kids, teachers and parents, and the use of protective equipment – sports injuries still occur. And oral injuries rate as the most common form of facial injury sustained by our young players in contact sports.

In the event of oral injury or trauma, you have to shift into injury management mode.

Injuries to the teeth or mouth can knock out teeth, obstruct airways or induce swelling. So always check for signs and symptoms of bleeding, pain, broken or knocked-out teeth and swelling, before administering the following basic first aid procedures.

  1. Assess the injury. Make sure the airways are clear. Place and support the patient in a recovery position to avoid further bleeding down into the throat, and obstruction of the airways.
  2. Control any heavy bleeding. Apply firm pressure to the bleeding wound, such as a tooth socket, with a clean folded tissue or sterile dressing for about ten minutes.
  3. Save knocked-out teeth or tooth fragments. Clean a knocked-out tooth with milk or the patient’s own saliva. Have the patient keep the tooth in place with a gentle bite over a folded tissue covering it, or use their finger. If the tooth is broken and cannot be reinserted, keep it in a half a cup of milk or sterile saline solution, wrapped in plastic.

Now it’s time to seek emergency dental or medical attention promptly.

See a dentist for tooth or jaw related injuries. If the patient is fully conscious, they may be transported in a private car.

See a doctor, for heavy bleeding or swelling of the mouth, face or throat.

Call an ambulance (000) immediately, if continuous bleeding or swelling, puts the airways of the patient at risk.
If you are the first aider in a dental emergency situation, it is vital that you respond, assess and take action. The correct first aid may save a child’s tooth.

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