Extracting Infected Teeth
If you are experiencing pain or tenderness around one or more of your teeth, see your dentist. A toothache could be a sign of infection inside the teeth, and, when not treated promptly, the infection inside the tooth, which is called an abscess, can spread to the surrounding area. Your dentist can examine your tooth and the tissue around the tooth, applying gentle pressure to the tooth to determine if it’s sensitive and where these sensitive areas may be. Your dentist will take an x-ray to see if there’s an abscess in the affected tooth, and x-rays can also help the dentist see if the infection has spread and led to an abscess in any other area. If the infection has spread to the neck, the dentist may order a CT scan to gauge the breadth and degree of infection.
Abscessed, or infected, teeth are treated by removing the infection. If the abscess is minor, your dentist may be able to drain the pus from the abscess through a small incision and rinse the area with saline solution to clean it. If there’s a significant amount of swelling, the dentist may place a tiny rubber drain in the tissue to allow additional pus to drain as swelling abates. The dentist may also recommend a root canal. A root canal is a procedure that aims to clear infection from the tooth while preserving the tooth in the mouth. In a root canal, the dentist drills into the tooth to remove infected pulp from inside the tooth and release pus. Once the inside of the tooth is free of infection, it’s sterilized, filled, and sealed. If the integrity of the tooth has been compromised, the dentist may cap the tooth with a crown to reinforce it. This is especially likely if the tooth is a back tooth, which sustains greater forces when chewing.
If the infected tooth can’t be saved, you may need to have the tooth extracted. Your dentist can extract the tooth and drain any infection that remains in the oral cavity, packing the extraction site with antibacterial bandage and prescribing antibiotics when needed to reduce the spread of infection. While the area heals, you can take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen as needed to help with pain. Once you get the okay from your dentist, you may also find relief from discomfort by swishing warm salt water gently in your mouth, but make sure to remove any packing material from the extraction site before doing so.
Before you see your dentist for a toothache, make a list of any symptoms you may have, including symptoms that may not seem related to the mouth, like a fever. List all the medications you take, including over-the-counter medications, herbal supplements, and vitamins, and make sure to note the dosages, and also list any questions you may have for your dentist. These questions could include requests for printed materials or written information, a discussion of all possible treatment options, or asking for specific clarification about instructions for aftercare following your procedure. Your dentist will ask you about your symptoms, including their duration and severity and whether anything makes the symptoms better or worse. They will ask about previous dental trauma or injury and review your previous history of dental and orthodontic work as they determine the best way to treat your infected tooth.