Symptoms of a Tooth Infection (Dental Abscess)

woman getting dental exam-tooth infection symptoms

Symptoms of a Tooth Infection (Dental Abscess)

You may think of your teeth as hard and indestructible, but their interiors are actually very vulnerable. The pulp inside a tooth is a substance that consists of nerves, blood vessels, and soft connective tissue. When the pulp gets infected, this is known as a dental abscess. Tooth infection symptoms can be very painful and need treatment right away. In some cases, an abscess can be treated with root canal therapy, but if the infection kills the tooth, you might need an extraction instead.

There are two types of abscesses:

  1. Periapical: This type of abscess forms at the tip of the infected tooth’s root.
  2. Periodontal: This abscess forms in the gums to the side of the root, and affects the bone next to the infected tooth.

The most common causes of pulp infections are cracked teeth, gum disease, and tooth decay. Abscesses can be extremely painful, and lead to permanent bone loss. Untreated infections can also spread to the rest of the body causing serious consequences. 

Symptoms of Infected Molars

An infected molar may cause sharp, throbbing pain whenever you put pressure on the tooth. This pain might also radiate to your jaw and parts of your face. Other symptoms that indicate a molar infection include:

  • Dark red, swollen gums
  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures

Fever, swollen lymph nodes, and trouble breathing or swallowing may also occur, and could indicate that the infection has spread further in your body. See a doctor right away if these symptoms arise.

Infected Wisdom Teeth Symptoms

Adults typically have four wisdom teeth at the very back of the mouth. Without enough room to erupt properly, wisdom teeth can become impacted, resulting in tooth pain, crowding, and damage to the other teeth.

Impacted wisdom teeth are especially susceptible to tooth infections, so it is often necessary to extract them. The following are signs of infected wisdom teeth:

  • Tender, bleeding gums
  • Gums that are red and puffy
  • Pain and swelling around the jaw
  • Foul odor and bad taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty opening your mouth

An abscess can also form a bump on your gums that resembles a pimple. If pressing on the bump makes it ooze pus, you know you are dealing with an infected tooth.

Treating an Infected Tooth

There are a few different options for treating a dental abscess. If you are experiencing the symptoms of an infected tooth, your dentist may recommend:

Endodontic Therapy

Also called root canal treatment, this process is the best way to save your natural tooth. Your dentist will clean, fill, and seal the root canals in your tooth to clear out the infection and prevent future ones.


In the case that your natural tooth cannot be saved, extraction may be the necessary route. This is also usually the recommended option for impacted or infected wisdom teeth.


A periodontal abscess may require surgery in order to drain it and relieve the associated pain.


If the infection spreads beyond the abscess into your jaw or the rest of your body, you will need antibiotics to deal with the infection as well as one of the above options to cure the abscess.

Holistic Preventative Care in Prescott, Arizona

Prescott Dentistry is proud to provide our community with natural, conservative dentistry in a calm and pleasant environment. Our goal is to prevent dental complications before they arise. We offer several holistic preventative care options to combat bacteria and reduce the risk of tooth decay, but we also offer emergency care for dental infections.

If you are suffering from tooth infection symptoms, contact us online or call our office at 928-445-1660 for comfortable, quality dental treatment.


Photo by Cedric Fauntleroy