This article is tailored for patients. Refer your patients to this article for them to learn more about their condition.
Dental Infections and How Antibiotics Help
Dental infections are one of the most common reasons patients visit their dentist. If you have recently had your teeth cleaned and noticed a little swelling or your gums have become red, it is most likely due to a dental infection. Also known as tooth or dental abscess, dental infections are the accumulation of pus at the tooth’s root due to bacterial invasion. Bacteria access the dental pulp that houses the connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves.
What Causes Dental Infections?
Dental root infections can be caused by untreated dental cavities, prior dental procedures, and oral injuries resulting in a cracked tooth. Bacteria exist in the mouth in the form of plaque as a by-product of food and saliva. When plaque is not removed when brushing teeth or flossing, the bacteria can access the tooth pulp through cavities, cracks in the tooth, or after a dental procedure.
Types Of Dental Infections
There are three types of dental infections, including gingival, periodontal, and periapical abscesses.
Gingival abscess affects the gums. Bacteria accumulates in the soft tissues above the tooth without affecting the tooth or periodontal ligaments. A gingival abscess occurs as painful yellow or white spots on the gums.
In this type of infection, bacteria accumulate within the wall of the periodontal pockets and destroy the periodontal tissues. As a result, the gums become inflamed, swollen, and red. A periodontal abscess can occur after a dental procedure, forming dental pockets. Bacteria accumulate in these pockets to form an abscess.
Also known as pulpitis, Periapical abscess forms at the tip of the tooth, affecting the soft pulp. Bacteria access the tooth through tiny cracks or holes, breaking down the soft tissues under the enamel.
Signs and Symptoms of a Dental Root Infection
● Intense tooth pain that spreads to the jawbone, neck, and ears
● Swollen painful gums
● Redness of the face, jawbones, and the inside of the mouth
● Sudden sensitivity to cold or hot drinks
● Fever and chills
● Difficulty opening the mouth, chewing, or swallowing food.
● If the abscess ruptures, there will be a sudden gush of salty, foul-tasting, foul-smelling fluid in your mouth, along with pain alleviation.
● Tender or swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or on the neck
● Unpleasant mouth odor
Treatment Of Dental Infections
Dental root infections do not disappear on their own. Therefore, if you experience any of the above symptoms, you should see a dentist immediately. The dentist will drain the abscess, prescribe medication, and advise on self-care remedies and pain management. The treatment approach depends on the type of infection.
Gingival Abscess Treatment
The dentist will administer a local anesthetic before making a small incision on the gum to remove the pus.
Periapical Abscess Treatment
The dentist will perform a root canal procedure to drain pus. The process involves using a drill to make a hole in the dead tooth and suctioning the abscess. They will
then remove any dead tissues and insert a filling to fill the void and prevent further infection spread. Surgery may be necessary to remove the damaged tissues in some periapical abscess cases. An oral surgeon will remove the infected periodontal pockets in case of a recurring infection. And if an infection occurs after the surgery, a dentist may have to extract the tooth.
Periodontal Abscess Treatment
The dentist will drain pus from the periodontal pockets and scale and plane the tooth surfaces to promote healing and prevent further infection.
How Antibiotics Can Help
A dentist may prescribe antibiotics when the dental root infection is severe or has spread to other parts. The choice of antibiotic will depend on the nature of the
Antibiotic Classes: First-Line Treatment
● Penicillins – Amoxicillin
● Cephalosporins – Cephalexin
● Macrolides- Azithromycin
● Azoles- Metronidazole
The American Dental Association recommends taking 500mg of Amoxicillin three times daily for 3-7 days to treat dental infections. Those patients allergic to penicillins can take 500mg of Azithromycin as a loading dose and then follow up with 250 mg once daily for four days. Alternatively, they can take 300mg of oral clindamycin four times daily for 3-7 days or 500mg of Cephalexin four times daily for 3-7 days. Sometimes the doctor may combine Amoxicillin with metronidazole as an adjunct in treating periodontal abscesses instead of scaling or planning the tooth. In addition, a dentist may prescribe intravenous antibiotics when a dental root infection has spread into the neck, causing difficulty swallowing. Antibiotics have several side effects, including nausea, diarrhea, or yeast infection.
How To Prevent Dental Infections
Maintaining proper hygiene is the best way to prevent dental root infections. In addition, eat healthy foods and reduce sugar intake. Regular visits to the dentist can help eliminate dental plaque, which is the primary cause of dental root infections. In addition, the dentist will examine your teeth for any cracks and treat any condition before spreading to the root of your tooth and other parts. Check out this page for more information on dentists near you because early intervention will prevent severe dental infections.