Why You Shouldn’t Ignore an Abscess

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 40% of American adults have tooth pain every year, and more than a quarter have a known cavity that hasn’t been treated. Tooth decay is a common cause of tooth pain, and it’s one of the most common chronic medical conditions among both kids and adults.

You may not want to go to the dentist to have that cavity cared for. But, if you put off treatment, the decay can spread and cause a deep infection called an abscess. An abscess is more than “just” a simple cavity. It’s a deep infection that can have serious consequences for your oral health and overall health.

As a leading endodontist with practices in Statesville and Hickory, North Carolina, Robert Scott Nance, DDS, MS, PA, treats abscesses with advanced techniques aimed at stopping the infection, repairing the damage, and preventing further infections from occurring. Dr. Nance and his team want patients to know why abscesses should never be ignored — and how you can help prevent them in the first place.

The causes and symptoms of abscesses

An abscess is a pocket of pus that develops as the result of an infection under your gum tissue, usually near a tooth root. Abscesses form when bacteria enter the lower part of the tooth or the area surrounding the tooth root, typically through a crack or fissure in the tooth. Untreated cavities can also develop infections and abscesses.

The primary symptom of an abscess is pain, and it’s typically severe, throbbing pain that’s worse when the area is touched or when it comes in contact with something, such as food or a toothbrush. Although the pain is centered near the infection, it can spread to your throat or your ear. Other symptoms can include:

Painful abscesses can interfere with eating and make it hard to sleep.

Why immediate care is crucial

Obviously, getting prompt care is important for relieving uncomfortable symptoms. But, that’s not the only reason why you need to see Dr. Nance right away. Abscesses are serious infections. Without prompt care, the infection-causing bacteria can cause serious — even life-threatening — complications, such as the following: 


This serious infection occurs when bacteria enter your bloodstream and spread to your bone tissue in your jaw or in any other part of your body.

Maxillary sinusitis

Sometimes, bacteria from the abscess can spread into the sinuses behind your cheeks and cause significant facial pain and fever. 


Cysts are fluid-filled pockets that form when an abscess isn’t treated. Cysts can easily become infected, which can increase the risk that the bacteria will spread and cause other problems.

Cavernous sinus thrombosis

The cavernous sinus is a cavity at the base of the brain. If large numbers of bacteria migrate to this cavity, they can cause a blood clot.

Ludwig’s angina

This serious complication happens when an abscess infection spreads to the area under your tongue. Subsequent swelling in the neck and throat can make it hard to breathe.

While some of these conditions can be treated with large doses of antibiotics, the condition could require draining of the abscess or even surgery to prevent life-threatening issues. Having an abscess treated in its earliest stages is the most effective way to help prevent complications from occurring.

Preventing abscesses

Having routine dental checkups is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the development of an abscess. During your checkup, Dr. Nance can remove plaque and tartar — which can harbor infectious bacteria — and he can also repair tiny cracks or fissures, which could allow bacteria to enter a tooth. 

If you have tooth pain or other symptoms of an abscess, or if you’re due for a checkup, don’t put off getting the care you need to stay healthy. Book an appointment over the phone with Robert Scott Nance, DDS, MS, PA, today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

I'm Nervous About My Upcoming Root Canal

Common misconceptions about root canal therapy can make you anxious if you need this procedure. Find out what’s involved in having this treatment and how state-of-the-art techniques and anesthesia can make your experience virtually painless.

Can a Dislodged Tooth Be Saved?

When you were a child, a wiggly tooth meant a visit from the tooth fairy. Now that you’re an adult, it’s much less exciting. Fortunately, our experts can save your teeth if you act fast.

Tooth Sensitive to Hot or Cold? It Could Be Cracked

A sudden shock of tooth pain after eating a spoonful of ice cream or sipping a cup of hot tea often means you have a cracked tooth. Read on to learn more about tooth sensitivity and why a cracked tooth needs quick treatment.

Why You May Need an Incision & Drainage Procedure

An abscess in your tooth, gums, or alveolar bone is no laughing matter. The infection and swelling of an abscess may cause immediate pain, but also jeopardizes your health. Incision & drainage removes the infection to keep it from spreading.

Top 5 Reasons to Seek Emergency Dental Care

Proper oral hygiene usually involves seeing your dentist every six months. But what happens when you've got a tooth emergency? Find out the most common reasons that you may need to see your dentist urgently.