Gum Abscess Vs. Tooth Abscess: How To Tell The Difference

21 May 2015
 Categories: Dentist, Blog


All dental abscesses are caused by bacteria and lead to swelling, tenderness, inflammation, and pus in the mouth. However, the location of the bacteria can determine your pain level, treatment options, and severity. Knowing the difference between an abscess of the gums and of the teeth can help you determine what do to for home treatment until you can see your dentist. 

Gum Abscess

A gum abscess occurs when a part of your gums becomes infected. The infection may be due to food trapped in between your teeth or trapped in gum pockets. This type of abscess is common in people who have gum disease. Pockets, or spaces, form between the gums and a tooth due to bone loss from gum disease. Food, debris and bacteria can get trapped in these spaces causing gum abscess symptoms:

  • Swelling in the affected area
  • Pain when biting down or rubbing the affected gums
  • Red, shiny gums
  • May or may not have pus

You can treat a gum abscess at home by swishing salt water to relieve the inflammation and help the gum release the bacteria. Use a saltwater solution of 1 teaspoon of salt in one 8 ounce glass of warm water. While this can ease pain and swelling, and your gums will feel better, this does not mean you can skip the dental visit. You need to determine the cause of the gum abscess so that your dentist can provide proper treatment to prevent it from happening again. 

Abscess Tooth

A tooth abscess is an infection around the root of your tooth. It is very painful, often interrupting sleep. They occur when bacteria make their way into a decayed tooth. This decay then travels to the root of the tooth. This is often the result of improper brushing. 

Some common symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Fever
  • Redness and swelling of nearby gums and cheek
  • Lump containing pus near the infected tooth; it may feel hot
  • Inability to close your mouth all the way
  • Throbbing tooth or mouth pain that sometimes is not eased with over-the-counter pain relievers

The infection can spread to the neck, face or even the chest, causing swelling. You'll need to see your dentist immediately for a tooth abscess. He or she can drain the abscess, prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection, and treat the tooth so the abscess doesn't return. You may need a root canal or a tooth extraction, depending on the amount of decay.

Any time you have pain and swelling in your mouth, you should seek dental treatment. Infections can spread to other parts of the body and even get into the bloodstream, making you very ill. It's best to always consult your dentist before trying home remedies a well. 

For more information, contact HP Family Dental or a similar location.