Dental abscess

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Information for the public about dental abscess from the NHS Inform website.

The information comprises:

  1. Introduction
  2. Symptoms of dental abscess
  3. Causes of dental abscess
  4. Diagnosing a dental abscess
  5. Treating a dental abscess
  6. Complications of a dental abscess


A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can form in the teeth or gums as a result of a bacterial infection.

Bacteria are found in plaque (a byproduct of food, saliva and bacteria in the mouth). Plaque damages teeth and gums and can eventually infect the soft tissue inside a tooth or gums, forming an abscess.

There are two types of dental abscess:

  • periapical abscess (the most common type), when bacteria infect the inside of the tooth as a result of dental decay
  • periodontal abscess, when bacteria infect the gums

See Causes of dental abscess for more information about the two types.

Dental abscesses can be very painful and tender and can make a person feel unwell.


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