Tooth abscess: how to identify, treat, and prevent

Book an Appointment Call Now

January 17, 2019

Will that tooth pain goes away or is it a tooth abscess which requires attention from your dentist? learn how to identify, treat, and prevent a tooth abscess.

Are you in the worst tooth pain of your life? Is your gum swollen and sore to the touch? Are you unable to sleep, or even sit still? Have you taken painkillers, but to no avail? Hours later, are you still writhing in pain, unable to eat and barely able to think?

Sounds like a tooth abscess, alright. To say that an abscessed tooth can be painful is an understatement. Untreated tooth abscesses can be agonizing and quite possibly the worst pain you’ve ever felt.

The good news? Most abscessed tooth pain can be remedied quickly and with a lot less pain than you’re suffering through right now.

In fact, the most painful part of treating an abscessed tooth is getting yourself to the dentist. But the dentist is exactly where you need to be—as soon as possible— to get rid of the pain and also get rid of the underlying infection causing it.

While you’re making that emergency appointment for your dentist, let’s talk about what an abscessed tooth is, what causes it, and how it’s treated, so you know what to expect at your appointment.

What is a tooth abscess?

A tooth abscess is an infection within the tooth. The pain from an abscess can hit you quite suddenly. Although the pain seems to out of nowhere, a tooth abscess has likely been in the making for years.

What’s the difference between a tooth abscess and a gum abscess?

Tooth abscess (periapical): This is when the abscess occurs inside of the tooth.

Gum abscess (periodontal): This is when the abscess is between the tooth and the gum. Especially for those with gingivitis or severe gum disease, food can get trapped between the gum and the tooth. An invasion of bacteria then leads to an infection.

How do i know if i have an abscessed tooth?

Pain. Not sure if you have an abscessed tooth or not? If you truly have an abscess, you won’t be wondering what’s wrong with your tooth…you’ll know that something is very wrong. The pain is that intense. It’ll start out slow, maybe, as a dull throb, but it amps up very quickly.

The telltale symptoms of an abscessed tooth is pain that you can’t ignore. The pain can vary from an annoying, but tolerable, throbbing pain to a shooting pain that brings you to your knees, the emergency room, or both.

This pain may also be accompanied by one or several other symptoms, such as:

  • Sensitivity to cold or hot
  • General malaise
  • Swollen upper or lower jaw
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck or under your jaw
  • Fever
  • Bad breath
  • Bitter taste (often described as salty)
  • A draining sore on the gum
  • Painful chewing or biting
  • Ache in the bone around your affected tooth

What causes an abscessed tooth?

So, what forces conspired together to create your agonizing tooth infection?

There are two main causes that can lead to a dental abscess. The first (and most common) cause is severe tooth decay. This tooth decay is most always related to a poor diet consisting of high sugar, processed foods, and refined carbohydrates.

The second cause of tooth abscess is physical trauma to the tooth. If the tooth absorbs a blow, and is subsequently chipped or broken, it’s vulnerable to infection.

An untreated cavity, chip, or crack in your teeth can “open the door” for bacteria to enter inside of your dental pulp, which is in the center of your tooth. The dental pulp contains everything vital to the “life” of your tooth, such as blood vessels and nerves.

When bacteria gets into the pulp, it leads to swelling, inflammation, and pus. This eventually causes pressure to build up, which is why you feel throbbing or sharp pain. When the abscess is drained, the pain will dissipate almost immediately. However, pain relief does not mean that you’re free and clear. The infection is still there and needs to be addressed.

How do you treat an abscessed tooth?

Not sure what you should expect when you go to the dentist to treat your dental infection?

First, the dentist will do a physical examination of your tooth. Abscessed teeth are usually accompanied by red, swollen gums. He or she will also probe the offending tooth gently. You will feel slight discomfort but the good news is that your pain is almost over.

Your dentist typically will take an X-ray of the bone surrounding the abscess to check for bone loss at the tip of the root of the tooth—this is what verifies that you do, indeed, have an abscess, and something else causing all that pain.

The dentist’s main goal in treating your tooth abscess is to get rid of the infection and prevent the tooth from needing to be extracted.

The dentist will likely prescribe a round of antibiotics to fight the infection. To combat the pain, your dentist may recommend ibuprofen. For particularly acute pain, your dentist may also write a prescription for a stronger painkiller.

Potential treatments

Root canal: Your dentist will attempt to save your tooth with a root canal treatment. During this treatment, the root canal of your tooth is cleaned and disinfected.  The dentist will then seal the tooth’s pulp and root canals, and “cap” the tooth with a crown.

Extraction: a root canal is not advisable if it is not possible to restore the tooth. If that is the case, a tooth extraction must be performed.

Can i “wait it out”?

You’re probably wrestling with yourself on whether you need to go to the dentist, or if you could just tough it out and wait for the pain to subside.

The last thing you want to do is “wait it out”. The pain associated with your tooth infection may stop because the pulp in the root of your tooth has died. But that doesn’t stop the infection. Even without pain, the infection will continue to spread. And in its wake, it will destroy the surrounding tissue, leading to even bigger problems.

How to get out of pain while you’re waiting? You can try my 3-3-3 method for tooth pain (using 200mg tablets of Advil). Keep in mind that this method does not cure an abscess—you will still need to see your dentist immediately so that you can get on an antibiotic as soon as possible, even if the pain goes away!

That’s why it’s still crucial to visit a dentist if you suspect an abscessed tooth infection— even if you’re not experiencing any more pain. Abscesses don’t go away on their own. This infection will continue to spread, and may eventually corrupt other teeth or worse.

Are there any home remedies for an abscessed tooth?

Tooth abscesses cannot be treated at home. You will need to seek proper dental treatment to get rid of the infection, although these home remedies can help alleviate the pain temporarily:

  • Take over the counter pain killers for temporary relief until your dental appointment. Don’t exceed the daily amount unless directed by your dentist.
  • Sleep (if you can) with your head elevated so that you relieve some of the pressure and thus have less pain. I highly recommend keeping your head elevated with a wedge pillow like this one.

What happens if i don’t treat a dental abscess?

Even if the pain subsides, you should always see the dentist to get a tooth abscess checked out.

When ignored, teeth infections can lead to dire consequences. Even though you may not feel it, the infection is still there and can spread quickly to the rest of your body. One rare but serious tooth abscess complication is sepsis, a life-threatening infection that can be caused by allowing your tooth infection to go unchecked. Just don’t risk it.

How do i prevent a tooth abscess?

The best prevention against dental abscess is diet first, along with good oral hygiene.

  1. A cavity-preventing diet: Good diet means eating a whole foods diet that minimizes or eliminates processed foods and refined carbohydrates (for more details on what kind of diet prevents decay and abscesses, read my article How to Never Get a Cavity: Remineralization 101). Even if you’re an expert flosser and brusher, your diet can still make you prone to cavities (and dental abscesses)! Remember, it’s diet first, and oral hygiene second.
  2. Proper technique: As for good oral hygiene, when was the last time you checked in on your flossing and brushing routine? Make sure you’re using proper technique for both (see my videos on how to floss and how to brush—you may be surprised that your technique could use an update!)
  3. Prevent tooth trauma: What do I mean by “tooth trauma”? Trauma to the tooth is anytime the tooth gets hit—a fall off a bicycle, getting knocked in the face, etc. Wear a mouthguard during exercise, don’t do anything with your teeth that’s not chewing (never try to rip open packaging with your teeth!) and try to avoid situations where you can get bopped in the face (common ones include concerts, or even holding up a wine glass to your mouth and getting bumped at a cocktail party.) After tooth trauma, I always recommend my 3-3-3 method even if you don’t have any pain! The 3-3-3 method reduces inflammation inside the tooth, which is what is responsible for killing the pulp. The pain can often come later, after it’s too late. By doing the 3-3-3 preventatively after trauma to the tooth, you may be able to prevent damaging the pulp, and thus, causing a tooth abscess. And always see your dentist immediately after tooth trauma! The sooner, the better, to prevent irreversible damage to the tooth.
  4. Regular check-ups: Your dentist or hygienist may notice warning signs that you can’t see for yourself—so make sure you’re seeing your dentist for regular check-ups and teeth cleanings.

Final thoughts

Pain in the mouth always indicates a problem—and these problems don’t go away on their own. Fortunately, this is the kind of problem that can be treated quite easily.

If you suspect a dental abscess, don’t wait—seek help immediately. The sooner you get things checked out by your dentist, the sooner you can get back to your life. You will feel like yourself again, promise!

Dr. Mark Burhenne

Share With Your Friends:

Back to Press Center


I switched my dentist because i was dissatisfied with their service and decided to go to Dr.Gorbotov's office for my wisdom tooth extraction. I never thought I would see the... read more

Oleg Solovey (Sunny Isles, FL)

Dr. Gorbatov is an outstanding dental surgeon and professional in every sense of the word. He and his entire staff are wonderful--- by far the most knowledgeable and compassionate of... read more

Salt&Light (West Palm Beach, FL)

I have been going to Dr Gorbatov at A Center For Dental Excellence for many years now and their use of "Excellence" isn't just a marketing ploy and they definitely... read more

Lawrence F. (Lake Worth, FL)

I are retired dentist and visit dr Gorbatov,s office like a patien for dental works. We graduate the same school New York university and l can tell you the dr... read more

Shmuil Aronovich (Hallandale Beach, FL)

This is the best dentist in the world who really cares about each and every patient and makes your smile look perfect! After visiting the new office you will be... read more

Kseniia Dursinova (Sunny Isles, FL)

Benjamin R. (West Pam Beach, FL)

Awesome service. Highly recommended

Iliana Gonzalez (Royal Palm Beach, FL)

Great staff I was nervous but they made me feel at ease. I am confident that they will give me the smile that I airways wanted. The receptionist personality is... read more

Uuggh uggh (West Palm Beach, FL)

Painless, professional and efficient. Dr Gorbatov is great!

Suzanne Wilt (West Palm Beach, FL)

Love the staff and great service!!

Rebeca Saravia (Dania Beach, FL)

Very high professionalism, excellent atmosphere and responsiveness of employees have made this business one of the best. A well-functioning team led by one of the best professionals of the US... read more

Lili Ivanova (Sunny Isles Beach, FL)

Excellent service , friendly & professional !!!

Mauricio Bonifacio (Sunny Isles, FL)

Very impressed with Dr. Gorbatov's ethics. He truly cared about my situation, the fact that I was from another city and had limited time off of work to address my... read more

Tatiana Safonova (Sunny Isles Beach, FL)

The receptionist goes above and be on for the customers. Excellent service the doctor treats you with all his attention feels like I’m right at home and explain everything detailed.... read more

Sophie Garcia (Royal Palm Beach, FL)

When I first found this office I was terrified of the dentist and I had constant anxiety when seeing dentists. Now I look forward to cleanings and my anxiety is... read more

Hayley Kaplan (Wellington, FL)

Incredible how I was just taking my mother to her dentist appointment to me ending up becoming a patient, Jessica greeted me with such warmth and compassion and immediately noticed... read more

Aracelis Figueroa (Wellington, FL)

Dr. Gorbatov placed an implant for me, I am extremely happy with the result, I had absolutely no pain during the procedure after few month doctor put a crown, looks... read more

Sergey Kasatkin (Sunny Isles Beach, FL)

Had an amazing experience. Staff was very caring and nice. They are very honest

Billie Selinsky (Wellington, FL)

The dentist fit me in last minute when my normal dentist was unavailable I tried them on the recommendation of a friend after I broke a veneer and had 3... read more

Mark Krawiec (Hollywood, FL)

Very professional nice staff great service.

(Aventura, FL)

Since me and my wife moved to Florida from Nj several years ago, we were looking for good dentist, the one we can trust. We tried a few but were... read more

Tatiana Lapushchik (Hollywood, FL)

Well I’ve been going to Dr. Gorbatov since 1996.... Yes ! I’m a loyal. With all the dental issues I’ve had, he’s been able to resolve them and been keeping... read more

Burke Crump (Wellington, FL)

I know Dr. Gorbatov and use his service already for 15 years since we moved to Florida. He is an amazing doctor capable to do all types of dental and... read more

Eugenia Aulov-Volchek (Sunny Isles Beach, FL)

I have lived and worked all over North America. One of the greatest challenges of relocating is finding the best dental practice. "Center For Dental Excellence" was recommended to me... read more

Gregory Sutton (Wellington, FL)

Very happy with quick service, suggestions & prices. Will be a repeat customer

Jaclyn Franceschini (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

What a great experience at the dentist!! I wish I had found these guys years ago, maybe I wouldn't be so afraid of the dentist. Thought I needed a root... read more

Craig Balsam (Wellington, FL)

I recommend this place to anyone that needs any type of dental work done , I always feel welcome from the moment i sign in untill my visit is over... read more

Lyn F (Wellington, FL)

Very good cleaning

Riley Purdy (West Palm Beach, FL)

I've been looking for a good dentist since So. FL lacks them. Not anymore, great professional services, and best of all, you will find a personal touch. You will truly... read more

ML GG (Aventura, FL)

Hello, Dr.Gorbatov is truly THE BEST ,so please just forget about all the rest! I truly witnessed MIRACLE IN MAKING!!! My sister now have a MOVIE STAR SMILE! Thank you... read more

Valnea Del Bianco (Hallandale Beach, FL)

Wonderful service

Noel Reyes (Lake Worth, FL)

I feel I have the best care possible under Dr. Gorbatov and his team. His work is top quality and because of him I know my teeth and the health... read more

Alex P. (Fort Lauderdale, FL)

Thank you doctor for my beautiful smile!

V V (Hollywood, FL)

My experience was great.Doctor is very professional.I really recommend.The best place to go for your dental.

Olga Meverden (Sunny Isles Beach, FL)

I've been looking for a good dentist since So. FL lacks them. Not anymore, great professional services, and best of all, you will find a personal touch. You will truly... read more

ML GG (Hollywood, FL)

I have been having a lot of issues with my teeth for quiet some time, including broken molars and bad procedures at other dental facilities. I came to Dr. Gorbatov... read more

Felix Spengler (Miami, FL)

Loved coming here, very nice Doctor and wonderful experience with a great cleaning. Receptionist is awesome too.

Lina Lobo (Greenacres, FL)

I have been going to this office now for the past 3 years. From Jessica working the front, to having my teeth cleaned, and both Drs. working on my teeth,... read more

Joanne Purdy (Wellington, FL)

Good quality office, and dental work.

Igor Gonchar (Hallandale Beach, FL)

Wonderful facility and staff, very professional.

(Sunny Isles, FL)

I had a great experience with Dr. Dmitry Gorbatov. He was able to save my tooth from getting a root canal. All the staff was really nice, and attentive. I... read more

Arthur R. (North Miami Beach, FL)

Had a great experience with Dr.Gorbatov, he is really professional and doing great his job always with a smile)) Definitely recommending him

Tanya Kusiumova (Sunny Isles Beach, FL)

S u p e r b ...Immaculate dentistry! I was impressed with a GREAT attention to details! His work is truly an ART and priceless! Everyone in the office is... read more

Gordana Skracic (Aventura, FL)

I always have a great experience when I come here, the staff is wonderful and I would not change my dental office for anything in the world.. Jessica is amazing... read more

Shiloh Robinson (Wellington, FL)

I take my 90yr great grandmother to this office and they are so kind and she feels so loved here. Every visit she receives excellent service and quality work. Thank... read more

Farron Ann (Wellington, FL)

Love Dr. Gorbatov! He is skilled, professional, thorough, nice, and always keeps me comfortable. The assistants and office staff are great too. I highly recommend Dr. Gorbatov!

fannabl (Hallandale Beach, FL)

Thank you personally and from the bottom of my heart for the kindness and consideration you showed my mom, Catherine the other day! ?

Patrizia Rondelli (Hollywood, FL)

I have been with the dentist for a few years now and love the care I receive. You are taken care of from the front desk person, through your visit!... read more

Juan Rodriguez (Greenacres, FL)

Jessica at the front has helped me tremendously and the Dr has made the large amount of work that I have had done painless

Celeste Clossin (Wellington, FL)

Dr. Gorbatov is an excellent dentist. I went to several other dentist and they all wanted to do a root canal, but Dr. Gorbatov was able to save my tooth.... read more

Arthur Rubinovich (Sunny Isles, FL)

You are the best guys! You definitely make me smile more :) Thank you sooooo much! Olga Aksenova ❤️

Olga Axenova (Hallandale Beach, FL)

Fast service and the best staff! I highly recommend this Dentist. I've been going to this Dentist for 2 years and I travel far now just to come here. They... read more

Christine (Orlando, FL)

Great service Knowledgeable doctor Friendly staff 5+ stars!! Someone hacked into my account and gave false review. Not me!!! Outstanding service @ Dr Gorbatov Dentistry!!!!

Ellen Zlobinskiy (Hallandale Beach, FL)

From the minute I walked in the dr Gorbatov office till the and of my treatment I was pleasantly surprised with professionalism and care of Dr and his staff. I... read more

Anna (Hollywood, FL)

For me, dental work always came with the presumption of pain and discomfort. That's why it was always very difficult to get any recommended work done, because all I'd have... read more

Iry T. (Hallandale Beach, FL)

I had been looking for a dentist for a few months and I was referred to Dr. Gorbatov and I can certainly see why. I've always been a little skeptical... read more

Jazlyne Jimenez (Hallandale Beach, FL)

I had a procedure done by Dr. Gorbatov, it was amazing, I didn't feel anything, he has very gentle hands and techniques and I didn't even feel the shot! I... read more

Jessica Y Montero (West Palm Beach, FL)

Thank you Dr. Gorbatov for the great experience, your gentle touch and quality work you have done on my teeth. I have been very pleased with your professional, yet personable... read more

Irina D. (Port Orange, FL)

Absolutely amazing. Jess and Jessica at the front made me feel so comfortable and helped me conquer my fear of the dentist. The office is clean and welcoming I completely... read more

Hayley Kaplan (Wellington, FL)

I want to say that I never write reviews. However I have to say that this dentist center is amazing! From the moment you enter you feel like family. Everyone... read more

Lisa Jerkins (Wellington, FL)

Very professional office. Good dentist.Clean dental office

Anna K. (Hollywood, FL)

The dentist is very friendly and gentle during procedures.

Sofie M (Sunny Isles Beach, FL)

Very helpful and amazing response time! Found them on Instagram and I'm happy I did!

Cece Esk (Hollywood, FL)

A Center for Dental Excellence is fantastic. They’re understanding and extremely competent. Not only is the dental care itself excellent, but their quality of caring about their patients is unparalleled.... read more

Haylee J (Aberdeen, FL)

I finally found a great dentist who does its all, root canals, caps, and implants. I needed major work on my mouth all at once, although it was expensive because... read more

Diane O’Brocki (Loxahatchee, FL)

I went to the office to get teeth cleaning! The receptionist was overwhelmed with something, but she was the sweetest. My dental hygienist did great job, made sure I feel... read more

Elizaveta C. (Miami, FL)

High-level professionals. Thank you, Dr. Gorbatov. I'm going to recommend your clinic to my friends. With best regards!

Vlad Shishko (Sunny Isles, FL)

This is IT!!!! As good as it gets!!! If you want a celebrity smile call his number.

Jacob F. (Miami)

I would like say that this office is at the TOP of my list. The staff is awesome, it is very clean and you made at home as soon as... read more

Jazlyne Jimenez (Lake Worth, FL)

I was very fortunate to find Dr. Gorbatov right when I had a major issue with an old crown that fell off and led to a major infection just a... read more

Octavian Miron (Aventura, FL)

The atmosphere in this office is beyond believe, I instantly felt comfortable with Dr Dimitiri and his assistant Yuri. They work great together. I had 6 veneers put in and... read more

Ruslan Gahramanov (Sunny Isles Beach, FL)

I’ve been coming here for almost 10 years now and can surely say that the customer service provided is one of the best in town. Make sure to be nice... read more

Hype Kay (Royal Palm Beach, FL)

No teeth fell out mid cleaning. 10/10

Erik Purdy (West Palm Beach, FL)

This is the Best Dental Office I ever was. Great personality, gentle touch and perfectionism in all aspects of cosmetic dentistry. Thank you Dr. Gorbatov for creating Smile I always... read more

Yuriy Gorobets (Hallandale Beach, FL)

Excellent Service! Friendly, Clean and Prompt!

Deidre Reid-Thomas (West Palm Beach, FL)

First time here the staff and Dr were so informative and professional thank you for making my experience run so smooth ?

Evelyn Garcia (Greenacres, FL)

Dr. Gorbatov is an excellent dentist whose main priority is making sure his patients are comfortable and get the best dentistry he can offer. He provides an attentive service, and... read more

Natallia Harbacheuskaya (Hollywood, FL)

Dr. Gorbatov was very thorough and went over all concerns I had (I'm not really a fan of the dentist). He is definitely the nicest Dentist I have ever been... read more

Sofia Rodriguez (Hallandale Beach, FL)

Entire office & staff is very accommodating and attentive to all your needs. The dentist was very nice and professional and really took the time to explain to me everything... read more

Tiffany D. (Hollywood, FL)

I have been Dr. Gorbatov's patient for over 8 years and have always received excellent service. The facility and staff are wonderful. I would highly recommend A Center for Dental... read more

Teresita Camacho (Lake Worth, FL)

Everyone in the office is super amazingly fantastic! They're informative and understanding. Dr. Gorbatov has done great work on my teeth! The dental hygienist has been a charm, makes every... read more

John Kern (Hollywood, FL)

Been going here forever and they do an excellent job with all your dental needs and even with cosmetic dentistry as well!

Lauren Harris (Lake Worth, FL)

Book an Appointment
Skip to content


Fill out email and/or message