It happens so suddenly. One day you’re fine, and the next, you have this terrible pain in your tooth. Eating becomes almost impossible. Taking a sip of your morning coffee or a drink of cold water triggers an unbearable stab of pain. Perhaps you’ve noticed some swelling in your gums or a more consistent dull ache in your mouth. The question is whether that pain is a toothache… or is it an abscess? How can you tell the difference? Dr. Hansen of Las Vegas is here to help. 

Toothache or Abscess: What Are They?

Let’s start by looking at toothaches and abscesses to give you a better idea of what each term refers to:

What Is a Toothache?

The term “toothache” is broad and refers to a range of causes for pain in your teeth, including:

  • Solid materials like bone or woody fiber stuck between your teeth or lodged in your gums
  • Bruxism (tooth grinding)
  • Poor tooth alignment 
  • Gum recession
  • Tooth decay or cavities
  • Cracked or chipped teeth
  • Dental trauma 
  • An abscessed tooth

What Is an Abscessed Tooth?

A dental abscess refers infection leading to a pocket of pus that forms around the root of a tooth. There are two main types:

  • Periapical abscess: A periapical abscess infection forms due to bacteria entering a tooth through an untreated cavity, tooth damage, or previous dental work. Over time, the bacteria begin spilling out through the tip of the tooth’s root and into the bone. 
  • Periodontal abscess: A periodontal abscess occurs outside the tooth, in the gums at the side of a tooth root. These abscesses can occur as a result of untreated gum disease. 

Symptoms to Know 

A toothache can be dull or sharp, mild or severe. You may not notice any other symptoms along with it, at least not right away. It’s also typically one of the first warning signs of an abscessed tooth.

The toothache that accompanies an abscess may start as dull but become more severe over time. The pain may radiate into your jaw, your ear, or your neck (depending on the location of the infected tooth). You may also notice other signs, including:

  • Swelling and redness of the gums
  • Facial swelling
  • Difficulty moving your mouth
  • Temperature sensitivity
  • Sensitivity when biting or chewing
  • A bad taste in your mouth 
  • Fever and feeling generally unwell

When to Call the Dentist

If your tooth starts to bother you, it’s time to call your dentist and schedule an appointment. While the problem might not prove to be a severe issue, you can get the treatment you need to restore your oral health and prevent the problem from getting worse. 

Should you notice any symptoms of an abscess, you really shouldn’t delay. The infection won’t go away on its own. Waiting allows it to spread to other parts of your body. 

Protect Your Oral Health

Treating a toothache or abscess restores your oral health. However, you also need to take proactive measures to prevent new issues from developing in the future. Good oral hygiene habits help reduce your risk of cavities, gum disease, and other dental health issues that could leave you susceptible to infections.Do you have a toothache or suspect an abscess? Dr. Hansen of Las Vegas is here to help. Contact us to learn more and schedule your appointment today.