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A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can form inside the teeth, in the gums, or in the bone that holds the teeth in place. Its caused by a bacterial infection.

An abscess at the end of a tooth is called a periapical abscess. An abscess in the gum is called a periodontal abscess.

Dental abscesses are often painful, but arent always. In either case, they should be looked at by a dentist.

It's important to get help as soon as possible, because abscesses don't go away on their own. They can sometimes spread to other parts of the body and make you ill.

What to do if you have a dental abscess

You should see a dentist as soon as possible if you think you have a dental abscess. Avoid visiting your GP, as there is little they can do to help.

You can get help from:

  • your registered dentist if it's out of hours, they should have an answerphone message with details of how to access out-of-hours dental treatment
  • The emergency number who can give you details of dental services in your area
  • your local clinical commissioning group (CCG) who can tell you the phone number of your local dental access helpline
  • your local accident and emergency (A&E) department if there are no other options or you're having difficulty breathing

Relieving your symptoms

While you're waiting to see a dentist, painkillers can help control your pain.

Ibuprofen is the preferred painkiller for dental abscesses, but if you're unable to take it for medical reasons, you can take paracetamol instead. Aspirinshouldn't be given tochildren under 16.

If one painkiller doesn't relieve the pain, taking both paracetamol and ibuprofen at the doses shown in the medicine leaflet may help. This is safe for adults, but not for children under 16.

It may also help to:

  • avoid hot or cold food and drink if it makes the pain worse
  • try eating cool, soft foods if possible, using the opposite side of your mouth
  • use a soft toothbrush and temporarily avoid flossing around the affected tooth

These measures can help relieve your symptoms temporarily, but you shouldn't use them to delay getting help from a dentist.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016