If you have moderate or severe pain, and notice a pocket of pus on your gums close to the tooth that is hurting, you probably have a tooth abscess. A tooth abscess is a collection of pus that results from a bacterial infection. When you have an infection that is not treated properly, it can turn into an abscess. This must be treated right away, so it helps to know the different signs of abscesses.
The first sign you will probably notice when you have a tooth abscess is the pain or discomfort. It may start very slow and gradually get worse, or you will just wake up one day with severe pain. The type of toothache is typically a throbbing, persistent pain, instead of just hurting when you bite down on something or when you have hot and cold temperatures. It will hurt continuously until you get it treated, even if you take pain relievers.
Swelling is another very common sign of an abscess. If the tooth is on the top row of teeth, you will see swelling in your cheeks, where it is obviously puffier than the other side of your mouth. With an abscess on the bottom row of teeth, the cheek swelling might be less obvious, but you will have swelling in your lymph nodes in your jaw and neck. The swollen, tender lymph nodes can also occur with an abscess on the top row of teeth.
You may also notice more sensitivity of the tooth and nearby teeth affected by the abscess. The first type of sensitivity is to hot and cold temperatures, similar to when you have an infected root that requires a root canal; an abscess may require a root canal as part of the remedial procedures to regain your oral health. Another area of sensitivity is when you chew with that tooth and bite down. The biting and chewing can cause anything from mild discomfort to severe pain.
Do you notice these other signs and also have a fever? A fever is very common among people who have a dental abscess. However, this should be considered one of the last signs because it is not as common as pain, swelling, or sensitivity of your tooth.
When an abscess ruptures, you may smell or taste it. You will suddenly smell a weird odor coming out of your mouth when you talk or even just opening your mouth to exhale. There may also be a sudden rush of fluid into your mouth that you can taste. This is what happens when the abscess ruptures because it is filled with a pus-like fluid.