Abscessed tooth in children is characterized by the collection of pus inside the teeth, gums, or surrounding bone. It occurs as a result of bacterial infection. An abscess at the end of the tooth is called a periapical abscess, and an abscess within the gum is called a periodontal abscess.
A dental abscess is painful most times, but not always. It helps if you take your child to the dentist for timely treatment and management. Read this post to learn more about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for dental abscesses in children.
Causes Of Tooth Abscess In Children
The dental abscess is caused due to bacteria inside the teeth. The bacteria can penetrate the teeth if they are cracked or have cavities. Cracks are caused due to dental trauma and cavities from poor oral hygiene (1).
Cavities lead to a periapical abscess. When the dental decay reaches the center of the tooth, it damages the tooth nerve, and the infection collects at the tip of the tooth root to form an abscess.
Gum diseases lead to periodontal infection. The bacteria present in the plaque can cause gum irritation and gum swelling. As the gums around the tooth loosen, a space between the teeth and gums is created, causing gum inflammation. Bacteria can collect in this space and may form abscesses (2).
Signs And Symptoms Of Tooth Abscess In Children
- Sharp or throbbing pain in the affected tooth or gum
- Teeth are sensitive to hot or cold food or drinks, and pressure
- Red discoloration on the gums
- Swollen gums
- Ear pain on the same side of the affected tooth
- Pain worsens on lying down and might cause sleep disturbance
- Appearance of a boil or a pimple
- Pus discharge from the gum
- Swollen jaw
- Swollen lymph nodes (4)
- Swollen neck
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
In severe cases, one may experience difficulties opening the mouth or problems with swallowing or breathing.
Risks And Complications Of Tooth Abscess
Untreated dental abscesses may lead to the following complications (5).
- Loss of tooth
- Blood infection
- Spread of infection to adjacent soft tissues
- Spread of infection to the jaw bone
- Spread of infection to the other areas of the body, therefore causing brain abscess, heart inflammation, pneumonia, etc.
Signs You Need To See A Doctor
Contact the pediatric dentist if you notice any of these symptoms (1).
- Pain and swelling on your child’s neck or face.
- Nausea or vomiting
- Persistent redness or swelling
- Pain that gets worse
- Pus or foul-smelling discharge from the mouth
Diagnosing Dental Abscess In Children
The dentist will thoroughly examine the tooth and the surrounding structures. The diagnosis includes tapping on the tooth using the blunt end of the mouth mirror. Pain on tapping or closely biting the teeth can indicate a dental abscess. The mobility of the teeth or the presence of cracks in the tooth are also checked. Dental caries is also evaluated in the teeth around the abscess.
Dental x-rays help the dentist determine the tooth causing the problem and gauge the infection (5).
Treatment For Dental Abscess In Children
Removing the source of infection and draining away the pus is important for treating a dental abscess. The following are the possible treatments based on the location and the severity of the infection (3) (5) (6).
OTC painkillers may help in providing some relief from toothache and fever.
Antibiotic therapy helps reduce the severity of dental infections. However, not all cases of dental abscess need antibiotics. Ensure completion of the entire course of antibiotics for your child upon prescription.
Root canal therapy is one of the most commonly used dental procedures to treat tooth abscesses. The infected dental pulp and abscess are removed from the tooth root before filling and sealing it.
- Removal of the affected tooth
Tooth extraction might be recommended for severely infected teeth that cannot be saved by root canal treatment.
A small cut is made on the gum to drain the pus/abscess. It might relieve the swelling. However, this is only a temporary solution, and further treatment is suggested.
For severe dental infections, hospitalization may be needed. however, more extensive surgical procedures are rarely required and may be performed under general anesthesia (3).
Home Remedies For Tooth Abscess In Children
The following measures may help your child get some relief from an abscessed tooth (1).
- Local application of ice packs for up to 20min multiple times a day can help reduce pain and swelling.
- Avoid using ointments or medicines internally or externally over the abscess without the doctor’s consent.
- Warm salt water rinses offer relief by reducing irritation, gum swelling, and pain.
Prevention Of Dental Abscess
Dental abscesses can be prevented by taking measures to keep your teeth and gums healthy. The following tips can help your child prevent dental abscesses (3).
- Ensure your child maintains proper oral hygiene to prevent cavities. Have your child brush their teeth twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste and soft-bristle toothbrush.
- Flossing the areas between the teeth can prevent plaque formation and gum diseases.
- Take your child to the dentist regularly
- Avoid giving excessive sugary food and drinks.
- Offer a balanced diet with all vegetables and fruits.
- Give a child-friendly mouth wash.
A dental abscess does not heal by itself and needs medical attention. The symptoms might sometimes improve, but a thorough dental evaluation is still necessary. Undergoing dental treatment and regular check-ups improves the lifespan of the teeth. Do not ignore your child’s symptoms of a dental abscess and seek an expert’s opinion.