When a swollen area develops on the gums, it usually indicates a tooth has become infected. The swollen area is an abscess, which can be very painful. It will usually look like a yellowish or white pimple on the gums. If you notice an abscess, it’s important that you call one of our dentists right away. When left untreated the infection in the tooth can spread, which may lead to more serious dental problems.
What causes an abscessed tooth?
If your gums have a swollen lump, this could be an infections. There are a number of things that can cause a tooth to become infected and abscess. Gum disease causes the gums to pull away from the teeth, leaving an area for deposits of plaque to collect, which can become infected. If you have an untreated cavity, the tooth pulp can become infected, and the infection may spread into the gum tissue which can cause an abscess to form.
What are the symptoms of an abscessed tooth?
In addition to the visible abscess, you may have a number of additional symptoms:
- Pain, especially when chewing, or when the mouth is exposed to very cold or hot foods/liquids;
- The pain may be pulsating or throbbing, and over-the-counter pain medications may not be effective;
- You may experience an unpleasant, somewhat salty taste in your mouth;
- Swelling in the jaw;
- The tooth may be sore or very tender to the touch.
How is an abscessed tooth treated?
When treating the abscessed tooth, the infection will be cleared by draining the abscess and clearing the infected tissue. You will likely also be prescribed a course of oral antibiotics. In a follow-up appointment, your dentist will perform a root canal in order to ensure the infected tooth pulp is completely cleaned out, and the space will be sealed to prevent future infection. In some rare cases, your dentist may decide to extract the tooth and replace it with a dental implant.
A swollen spot on the gums is serious and it is important that it is treated as soon as possible. The infection causing the abscess can spread and infect the bone that supports your teeth, which may cause tooth loss. Eventually you may experience swelling in your face, and the infection may even spread into your neck and head.