There's no gentle way to say it—the pain from an abscessed tooth can be overwhelming. Although the dental infection that led to your tooth becoming abscessed would have been developing for some time, it can seem as though the pain suddenly accelerates. Mild discomfort can suddenly become unbearable. You need immediate dental attention.
Emergency Treatment Is Needed
If your usual dentist is unable to see you (and of course your pain may spike outside of standard business hours), contact a clinic that offers 24-hour emergency dentist services. If the infection is spreading, it can be extremely destructive to the soft tissues in your mouth. It may even reach your jawbone and spread throughout your body. Under no circumstances should you delay treatment any further, as the situation has become critical.
Types of Infection
Your critical situation is due to a potent dental infection, which may be centered in the tooth's pulp (also called its nerve). This is known as a periapical abscess. The other possibility is a periodontal abscess, which is when the infection originates in the soft tissues around the tooth. Both types of abscesses result in similar symptoms, and both can be extremely serious.
Signs of Infection
While waiting to go to the dentist, you may find limited relief with over-the-counter pain relief. This should help to mask your pain, although it's unlikely to completely eliminate it. While you may be able to see visible signs of the infection on your gums, you must avoid the temptation to interfere with the site. The most prominent sign of infection on your gums is a pustule, known as a gumboil, which resembles a pimple.
Lancing this gumboil and allowing it to drain will be one of the first things an emergency dentist does. This immediately relieves pressure on your tooth's pulp and the surrounding soft tissues, and your pain will alleviate. Draining the gumboil of pus will remove many signs of the infection, without entirely eliminating the infection.
Chronic abscesses may require antibiotic treatment, but if yours was a relatively mild case and you have a healthy immune system, then no antibiotics may be needed. However, you will need some recovery time after the infection has been drained, and then reconstruction efforts can begin. You may be referred back to your usual dentist for this.
In order to save the tooth, root canal treatment will be performed to remove its damaged pulp. The tooth will then be restored with a dental filling, generally followed by a dental crown. If the tooth was so severely infected that it cannot be saved, then your dentist will discuss your extraction and replacement options with you.
You must hurry to see a dentist when you first notice the signs of an abscessed tooth. Remember that the situation will only become more difficult without quick treatment.