Risk factors, Diagnosis and Complications of Tooth Abscess

Tooth abscess is fairly common dental health problem, especially among individuals with poor dental/oral hygiene. Some individuals are at higher risk of developing tooth abscess in compare to general population.

The risk factors of tooth abscess are:

Poor dental/oral hygiene: this is one of the commonest cause or risk factor of tooth abscess. Not taking care of oral health or dental health in general is a risk factor for tooth abscess and other dental problems, such as cavities. Good dental health can be maintained by brushing teeth are taking every meal or at least twice a day. Flossing at least once a day at bed-time and visiting dentist at least twice a year (every six months). Poor dental hygiene is a risk factor for dental cavity, which in turn is responsible for most of the cases of tooth abscess.

Eating too much sweet/sugar: Eating excess sugar can lead to dental cavity. Sugar provides food for the bacterial growth which can lead to tooth decay and cavity.

Diagnosis of tooth abscess:

Diagnosis of tooth abscess can be made by history, symptoms and by performing simple tests (such as tap on the affected tooth and by X-ray).

Tap on the affected tooth: tooth with an abscess is usually sensitive to touch and pressure as well as hot or cold. If a tooth with abscess is tapped or touched, it shows sensitivity. The adjoining teeth do not show any such sensitivity.

X-ray: X-ray of the affected tooth with adjoining teeth can help in making a diagnosis of tooth abscess. X-ray will show typical shadow for abscess.

Complications of tooth abscess:

If left untreated tooth abscess will never go away on its own. Hence, appropriate treatment of tooth abscess is must. Otherwise, it may lead to various complications.

If tooth abscess is left untreated, it may rupture spontaneously, which will give prompt relief from pain and other symptoms, but it will not heal or get cured. The infection may spread to other parts of the body, especially in nearby tissues of head and neck. There is even risk of sepsis, which is a life threatening infection of most of the tissues of the body.

In case of individuals with weak immune system (HIV/AIDS patients, patients receiving immune suppressant medications or systemic corticosteroids), the risk of spreading infection from tooth abscess to other parts of the body and sepsis is much higher.

Untreated tooth abscess may become large enough to perforate the mandible (jaw bone) and lead to osteomyelitis (infection of bones) and cellulites and lead to generalized infection from there.

Serious complications may develop if there is spread of infection from tooth abscess to other tissues, such as Ludwig’s angina, septicemia (infection of blood), meningitis (very rare), brain abscess (extremely rare) etc.

Never leave tooth abscess untreated, because it will never heal on itself and may lead to various and potentially life threatening complications.

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