When You Can’t See a Dentist Immediately: Managing a Dental Abscess

Unless your dentist happens to spot it in its infancy during a routine checkup, you will be the one who first notices that you have a dental abscess. Ideally you would head straight to your dentist the moment you become aware of the problem, but this isn't always necessarily the case. If the problem should seemingly appear at an odd hour or at a time when you are unable to get to the dentist for whatever reason, what should you do to manage the situation?

The Two Primary Types of Dental Abscesses

Whether it's a periapical abscess (an infection forming in the dental pulp, or the nerve inside your tooth) or a periodontal abscess (an infection forming in the tissues that surround the tooth), the initial symptoms are usually the same. There can be a mild tingling or discomfort which can be dismissed as minor toothache or dental sensitivity. This can quickly escalate, and while the underlying infection has been developing for some time, it can feel as though the abscess has suddenly appeared.

Managing a Periapical Abscess

A periapical abscess might require a root canal, in which the infected dental pulp is removed. Since this is more of an internalised infection than a periodontal abscess, it can feel like a particularly unpleasant toothache. Naturally, you should get to a dentist as soon as possible. If the pain is extreme, an after-hours dentist should be consulted. In the interim, over-the-counter pain relief can help to alleviate your discomfort. Ibuprofen is the best choice due to the anti-inflammatory nature of the medication. A warm compress applied to the side of your jaw can also bring relief.

Managing a Periodontal Abscess

A periodontal abscess differs in that the infection attempts to find an exit point since it has formed in the tissue surrounding the tooth, as opposed to within the tooth. This type of abscess can result in a quick-forming gum boil, which resembles a pimple. Do not attempt to rupture this boil, as this can create complications. If it should rupture of its own accord, pus will often be discharged into your mouth. Rinse your mouth thoroughly with salt water, as this can assist to clean the ruptured abscess. Do not use mouthwash, as this can cause extreme irritation. Again, you will need to see a dentist as soon as possible, and over-the-counter pain relief as well as a warm compress can be helpful in the interim.

Even if an abscess ruptures or seems to feel better of its own accord, it's important to remember that this has not cured the underlying infection. It's still vital to see a dentist as soon as possible to prevent the problem from returning.