There are several causes of a tooth abscess:
The main cause of a dental abscess is severe tooth decay. When a cavity is neglected, bacteria multiply and invade the center of the tooth (the pulp), contaminating the nerve and blood supply. The bacteria spread down the root and into the soft tissues and bone supporting the tooth, leading to an abscess.
An abscess may be caused by trauma to a tooth or gum tissue. For example, when a tooth has a chip or crack, these openings in the enamel allow bacteria to enter and invade the center of the tooth (the pulp), causing an infection. The infection may then spread down the root of the tooth and to the surrounding gum tissue and bone supporting the tooth. Abscesses may also form when food or debris, such as a popcorn kernel, becomes embedded in the gums. This foreign body irritates the gum tissue and can cause an infection.
An abscess may form on a tooth that has had prior dental treatment, such as a filling, crown, or root canal. If bacteria remain in the tooth following dental work they may proliferate at some point causing the tooth to re-infect.ng the tooth. Abscesses may also form when food or debris, such as a popcorn kernel, becomes embedded in the gums. This foreign body irritates the gum tissue and can cause an infection.
An abscess can be caused by periodontal disease (gum disease). Periodontal disease causes the gum tissue to pull away from the teeth, leaving spaces between the teeth and gums known as pockets. If food and debris accumulate in these pockets, bacteria can grow and an abscess can form. When an abscess is confined to the soft tissue surrounding a tooth, it is referred to as a periodontal or gum abscess.
Dental abscesses can occur in people with underlying autoimmune disorders (such as Sjogren's syndrome) and in people with health conditions that weaken the immune system (such as diabetes or cancer treatment). People with lowered resistance to infection are at a greater risk of developing an abscess.
There are many other reasons why a tooth abscess may develop. Some examples include:
Whatever the cause, an abscessed tooth must be treated immediately. At the Kurpis Center for Advanced Dentistry we can diagnose and treat an abscess and can rule out oral cancers or other pathologic conditions that may be confused with an abscess.