Tooth Abscess Stages: A Comprehensive Overview

Tooth Abscess

Tooth abscesses can be incredibly painful and, if not addressed promptly, can escalate into serious oral health problems. They occur as a result of a bacterial infection, which generates a pocket of pus at a tooth’s root or in the space between the tooth and gums. From initial discomfort to severe swelling and fever, understanding the abscess tooth stages can help you take timely action.

This article will delve into the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and tooth abscess stages pictures, which will arm you with the necessary information to safeguard your oral health.

What Is a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is a serious dental condition in which a pocket of pus and bacteria forms at the root of a tooth or in the space between the tooth and gums due to an infection. The condition is often associated with tooth decay, gum disease, or a cracked tooth and is characterized by severe toothache, sensitivity, swelling, and fever.

The bacteria causing the infection can multiply rapidly, sometimes leading to significant swelling and pain. Left untreated, the infection can spread to other areas of the mouth or body, potentially leading to more serious health complications. The pus accumulates in a dead tissue area, leading to a painful, throbbing sensation around the infected tooth.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Tooth Abscess?

Severe Toothache

A severe, constant toothache is often the most obvious sign of a tooth abscess. This pain isn’t fleeting or inconsistent; instead, it tends to linger persistently, making it hard to focus on anything else. It’s often described as a sharp, gnawing, or throbbing sensation that may escalate in severity when the person lies down, thereby disrupting their sleep or rest.


A heightened sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures is another telltale sign of dental abscesses. This sensitivity is usually so severe that it causes a sharp, sudden pain as soon as the affected person consumes anything hot or cold. It’s not simply a mild discomfort but may make eating and drinking extremely uncomfortable, which can further affect their overall health and well-being.

Facial Swelling

The development of swelling in the cheek, jaw, or entire face not only reveals the presence of an abscess but also suggests an advanced tooth infection. This swelling can cause considerable discomfort and make simple movements like opening the mouth or chewing difficult. This discomfort can be distracting and restrict the individual’s ability to conduct usual day-to-day activities.

Bad Breath

Persistent bad breath, also known as halitosis or a foul taste in the mouth, can be linked to the presence of a tooth abscess, too. This is because when pus forms because of the bacterial infection in your mouth, it emits a foul smell and taste. This persisting bad taste and smell can lead to discomfort and self-consciousness, negatively affecting social interactions.


Because a tooth abscess is essentially an infection, it’s not uncommon for it to result in a fever. The body develops a fever as an automatic defense mechanism in an attempt to kill off an infection. So, if you’re experiencing an unexplained fever coupled with a toothache, it might be signaling a tooth abscess.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

The spreading of infection from a tooth abscess can cause your lymph nodes, especially those in your neck and under your jaw, to swell as they strive to fight off the infection. The swelling of these glands can be uncomfortable and sometimes downright painful. This condition might require medical intervention if it starts to impact everyday activities or causes distress.

Pain When Biting or Chewing

The infected tooth and its surrounding areas tend to become inflamed due to a tooth abscess. This inflammation typically results in heightened sensitivity and pain when applying pressure, such as when biting down or chewing food. This could interfere with the person’s ability to eat properly, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies and worsen overall health.

Tooth Abscess

What Are the Common Causes of Tooth Abscesses?

  • Poor Oral Hygiene. One of the leading causes of tooth abscesses is inadequate oral care. Regular brushing and flossing can help prevent plaque build-up that could consequently lead to dental cavities and abscesses.
  • Diet. Excessive consumption of sugary and acidic foods could contribute to the formation of a tooth abscess. These types of food can accelerate tooth decay and, hence, increase the risk of forming an abscess.
  • Smoking. Smoking harms your immune system, making it harder for your body to fight off a tooth infection. This increases the chances of developing a tooth abscess.
  • Dry Mouth. Lesser-known but still significant, dry mouth can also lead to tooth abscess. It is caused due to reduced levels of saliva. Since saliva helps keep your mouth clean and reduces the amount of bacteria, having a dry mouth can increase the chance of a tooth abscess.
  • Root Canal Failure. A tooth abscess can occur for various reasons, including root canal failure. When a root canal treatment doesn’t successfully eliminate the infection from the tooth roots, it can redevelop, causing pus to accumulate and resulting in an abscess.

What Are the Types of Tooth Abscess?

1. Periapical Abscess

A periapical abscess is the most common type of dental abscess, occurring when the pulp chamber, located at the tip of the tooth’s root, becomes infected by bacteria. This usually happens when the insides of the tooth, comprising of blood vessels and nerves, get damaged due to a deep cavity or significant trauma to the tooth.

Left untreated, these bacteria can multiply and spread to the bones that support the tooth, leading to severe pain, sensitivity, and swelling. Therefore, professional dental treatment like root canal therapy is essential to prevent potential tooth loss.

2. Periodontal Abscess

A periodontal abscess, unlike a periapical abscess, forms in the gum tissues near the root of a tooth. It does not originate within the tooth but begins in the gum tissues that surround the tooth. However, it is closely related to the dental health of the tooth’s root, as ongoing gum disease or periodontitis can precipitate its occurrence.

The consequences are often similar to a periapical abscess, with pain, facial swelling, and potentially even the creation of pus pockets or fistulas if left untreated.

3. Gingival Abscess

Interestingly, a gingival abscess does not affect the tooth directly. It develops in the gum tissues, commonly near the gum line or the area surrounding the teeth. This type of abscess is most often triggered by foreign materials, such as a popcorn husk or a toothbrush bristle, that get stuck in the gum and cause an infection.

Significant pain, redness, or swelling in a particular spot on your gums could indicate a gingival abscess, requiring immediate dental attention to prevent further dental or health complications.

What Are the Stages of a Tooth Abscess?

Stage 1: Inflammation

This is usually the initial stage of a tooth abscess, a condition where the innermost part of the tooth, known as the pulp chamber, gets infected by bacteria. In response, inflammation takes place – a natural body process aimed at healing the tissue affected. You may start to experience minor discomfort or sensitivity in the tooth being affected.

Stage 2: Swelling

Next comes the stage of swelling, which signifies that the infection has now spread past the root of the tooth. The infection extends into the surrounding tissue, such as the gums and jawbone, consequently leading to swelling. This swelling is typically accompanied by considerable pain and discomfort due to the increase in pressure.

The swelling could manifest on your face or jaw, and you might even notice a bump on your gums close to the problematic tooth, a condition commonly known as a gum boil.

Stage 3: Pus Formation

As the condition progresses into the next stage, namely pus formation, the body’s immune system ramps up its response to the infection. Your body starts producing pus, a thick, yellowish, or greenish fluid composed of a collection of dead cells, bacteria, and immune cells, also known as white blood cells.

This pus may accumulate at the root tip of the tooth or in the surrounding tissues, resulting in a further increase in swelling and potentially severe pain. This is a defensive mechanism as your body is attempting to wall off and fight the infection.

Stage 4: Abscess Rupture

In the final stage, the abscess may rupture, causing the pus to drain out of your mouth or into the surrounding tissue. This can relieve pain and swelling temporarily, but it does not mean the infection has been resolved. Without proper treatment, the infection can spread and cause further complications.

What Are the Treatments for Tooth Abscess?

Antibiotic Treatment

Antibiotic treatment, which contains antibacterial agents, is typically prescribed to battle the infection causing a tooth abscess. It’s crucial to your oral health to follow the prescribed medication course diligently to eliminate the bacteria effectively.

Root Canal Therapy

In root canal therapy, the centerpiece of treating a tooth abscess, the infected tissue from the tooth roots must be removed to prevent further infection and discomfort. The tooth roots are then filled with a special dental material to restore the tooth’s function and structure.


In severe cases where an abscess has resulted in extensive damage to the tooth, extraction may be the only viable treatment option. The decision to extract is carefully considered, factoring in the potential treatment outcomes and the overall impact on your oral health.

Tooth Abscess

What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Tooth Abscess?

  • Practicing Good Oral Hygiene. Regular tooth brushing and flossing should be non-negotiable parts of your daily routine. Spend at least two minutes brushing your teeth at least twice a day, and make sure to floss at least once a day. This helps to prevent plaque buildup, thus reducing the chance of tooth decay, gum disease, and, consequently, tooth abscess.
  • Regular Dental Visits. Well-maintained dental health requires regular visits to the dentist. It is recommended to schedule dental check-ups every six months so that any potential problems can be detected early. Regular professional cleanings will also help remove any persistent plaque or tartar, preventing any future oral health issues.
  • Healthy Diet. Sticking to a healthy diet helps keep your teeth strong. Consuming too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, which paves the way for a tooth abscess. Incorporate foods that strengthen your teeth, like dairy products, and avoid sugary or acidic foods that can erode tooth enamel.
  • Use of Fluoride Products. Using toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride can strengthen your teeth and prevent tooth decay. Fluoride actively fights the bacteria that can cause cavities and, subsequently, tooth abscesses.
  • Wearing a Mouthguard. If you play sports or grind your teeth at night (a condition known as bruxism), you should consider wearing a mouthguard. This is a preventative measure to protect your teeth from cracks and breaks, which can expose the inner layers of your tooth to bacteria, leading to a tooth abscess.
  • Avoiding Tobacco. Tobacco use in any form – chewing tobacco or smoking – severely affects oral health. It can cause tooth decay and gum disease, increasing the risk of a tooth abscess.

Stop Tooth Abscess in Its Tracks: Contact Aesthetic Dentistry of Fairfield Today

Understanding the tooth abscess stages is crucial in maintaining good oral health. Being well-informed allows you to take the right steps at the appropriate time. Health is wealth, and this is true for oral health. Don’t wait—take action today to preserve that smile of yours.

If you suspect you may have a tooth abscess or are due for a dental check-up, book your appointment at Aesthetic Dentistry of Fairfield.

Let’s work together to ensure your oral health is in the best possible shape.

About Dr. Christine Lee

Dr. Lee specializes in cosmetic rehabilitations and complex full-mouth reconstructions. She is skilled in all facets of restorative dentistry such as crowns, porcelain veneers, bridges, and complete or partial dentures.

Recent Posts