Should I Drain a Tooth Abscess?

Only trained doctor's should attempt to drain a tooth abscess.
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  • Written By: Laura Evans
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 November 2014
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A tooth abscess develops as the result of tooth decay. People without medical training should not attempt to drain a tooth abscess. Only a medical professional such as a dentist should drain a tooth abscess, though people with abscesses should seek medical treatment. Without proper treatment, a tooth abscess can lead to complications that can be potentially life threatening.

When bacteria invade a tooth through a crack or breach in the tooth's enamel, the tooth's pulp may ultimately become infected. The resulting pus and swelling tissue can cause a toothache. As the infection spreads into the root of the tooth, an abscess may form. The root may die and the infection may continue to spread into the bones of the jaw.

Symptoms of a tooth abscess include a throbbing toothache and sensitivity to hot or cold. It may be painful to chew. The person may have facial swelling and a temperature. While a person should not try to drain a tooth abscess, the abscess may break open on its own, resulting in a gush of foul-tasting and foul-smelling liquid into the mouth.

A dentist's goals in treating a tooth abscess are to treat the infection and to save the tooth. In order to do this, a dentist may prescribe antibiotics. In addition, the dentist may have to perform a root canal. During a root canal, the dentist will remove infected pulp, drain the tooth abscess, and seal the tooth. In some cases, the tooth may have to be completely removed.


If one does not seek treatment to drain a tooth abscess, the infection can lead to serious medical conditions. The infection can spread to different parts of the body in addition to the jaw, including the face. Untreated tooth abscesses can also lead to brain abscesses, pneumonia, and sepsis, which can lead to death.

A tooth consists of several parts, such as the crown, the neck, and the root. The crown is the part of the tooth that is visible above the gum line of the mouth. Necks are the areas on teeth where the crowns meet the roots. Roots can be thought of as being similar to roots of trees. Teeth roots serve to anchor the teeth in place in the jaw. In addition, small holes at the bottoms of roots, called apical foramen, allow nerves and blood vessels to enter teeth from the jaw.

Teeth also have layers. Enamel is the hard outer covering over the crown that serves as protection for the tooth. Cementum, although not as tough as enamel, covers the surface of the root or roots of the tooth. Dentin, which makes up most of the "body" of a tooth, is the level next to the cementum. Pulp or the pulp cavity holds all of the nerves and blood vessels of the tooth.


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