An abscessed tooth is a painful, swollen infection at the root of the tooth.
In general, a tooth that has become abscessed is one whose underlying pulp (the tooth’s soft core) has become infected or swollen. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue, and lies within the tooth. It extends from the crown of the tooth, to the tip of the root, in the bone of the jaws.
An abscessed tooth may be caused by poor oral hygiene, trauma to the mouth or teeth, auto-immune disorders, or medical conditions that weaken the immune system. If you suspect you have an abscess, you should call your dentist immediately, as it may be treatable.
In some cases, antibiotics can be administered by your dentist in an attempt to kill an infection. If antibiotics are ineffective and an abscess is shown to be damaging the pulp or lower bony structures, a root canal procedure may be needed to remove the dead pulp and restore the tooth to a healthy state.
If left untreated, the infection can spread to surrounding tissues of the gums, face, jaw, and throat. If you have fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting as the result of an abscess, you should see your doctor immediately or visit the emergency room.