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4 Common Ways Tooth Abscesses Are Treated

woman with jaw pain touching her jawA toothache, bitter taste in your mouth, red, swollen gums, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and jaw. These are some of the most common symptoms of a tooth abscess. If you have an abscess it won’t resolve without treatment.

Even if the abscess diffuses, ruptures or drains and the pain stops, you still need professional dental treatment. That’s because if left untreated an abscess can spread to other parts of the body and potentially be life-threatening.

Here’s a look at the top four ways that your dentist will treat a tooth abscess:

  • Open up (incise) and drain the abscess. Your dentist will make a small incision into the abscess, permitting the pus to drain out, and then wash the area with salt water (saline). A small rubber drain may be used to keep the area open for drainage while the swelling decreases.
  • Perform a root canal. This procedure can help get rid of the infection and save your tooth. To perform the treatment, your dentist will drill down into your tooth, remove the diseased central tissue (pulp) and drain the abscess. Next, the tooth’s pulp chamber and root canals will be filled and sealed. Your dentist may cap the tooth with a crown to make it stronger, particularly if it’s a back tooth.
  • Pull the affected tooth. If the affected tooth can’t be preserved, your dentist will extract the tooth and drain the abscess to get rid of the infection.
  • Prescribe antibiotics. If the infection is confined to the abscessed area, you may not require antibiotics. But if the infection has spread to adjacent teeth, your jaw or other areas, your dentist can prescribe antibiotics to stop it from spreading further. Antibiotics also may be given if you have a weakened immune system.

The Importance of Seeking Care Immediately

If you put off getting care from the dentist for an abscessed tooth, you may require more serious interventions:


If an abscess has spread to the floor of the mouth or the neck it may need to be drained in the operating room under anesthesia. Additionally, if an abscess still doesn’t heal, or it enlarges after you receive conventional root canal treatment, surgery will most likely be required.


Serious tooth and jaw infections, secondary infections of the body and their associated complications may be life-threatening and require emergency room or extended hospital care.

Ways to Stay Comfortable

The following won’t treat your abscess but they can help address your pain or discomfort while you heal.

Warm saltwater rinses: If an abscess erupts by itself, you can use a warm saltwater rinse to help soothe and clean your mouth and encourage drainage until you can see your dentist. Your dentist also may recommend rinses during the treatment recovery time to reduce discomfort and promote healing.

Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication: Painkillers such as ibuprofen help relieve discomfort while the area heals. However, it’s important to remember that while these medications will address pain, they won’t treat the abscess. You still need to see your dentist for prompt follow-up care.

If you believe you have an abscessed tooth, contact Midland Park Family Dentistry today. We want to help you heal and get out of pain.

2 Join the Conversation

  1. Cindy says
    Nov 04, 2023 at 10:10 PM

    I have a painless bubble of fluid on my lower gum. What should I do??

    • says
      Nov 08, 2023 at 11:52 AM

      Hi Cindy! Thanks for checking in. It's best to be seen by a dentist in your area to have it properly evaluated and treated. Please feel free to call us if you need help!

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