Tooth Abscess Stages

A tooth abscess is a dental problem many patients deal with at one point in their life. An abscess is a mass of pus that grows within a tooth or the structures surrounding it. Tooth abscesses form as a result of a bacterial infection within the tooth, gums, or jaw bone. Infections of this kind may occur as a result of tooth decay, gum disease, or a mouth injury. A tooth abscess can worsen or spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Understanding what causes a tooth abscess and the tooth abscess stages will help an individual avoid this dental problem. Below, Dr. Moghadam, an emergency dentist in Easton, PA, discusses the different factors of a tooth abscess.

What’s a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is a mass of pus that forms within a tooth or the structures surrounding it. They occur as a result of a bacterial infection in one of the following areas of the mouth: 

  • The pulp of the tooth, the innermost portion of the tooth, the gums, and the jaw bone.
  • Tooth decay from untreated cavities is the most common cause of tooth abscesses. They can, however, develop as a result of gum disease or an open wound in the mouth.

Tooth decay stages

An abscess is a form of tooth decay in its later stages. The various stages are as follows:

  1. Enamel decay is caused by damage to the tooth’s outermost layer. Some people have no symptoms, whereas others may have increased sensitivity to heat and cold. White spots on the teeth may be caused by enamel deterioration.
  2. Dentin decay: Degeneration of the layer under the enamel of the tooth. Some individuals may experience pain or sensitivity. In certain situations, a clear hole or cavity in the tooth can exist.
  3. Pulp decay occurs as bacteria penetrate deep into the tooth’s innermost layer. Bacteria in the pulp of the tooth may attack the nerve of the tooth, causing excruciating pain. When a nerve is damaged, a person will experience extreme pain at first, followed by no pain at all.
  4. Abscess Form: An abscess develops in the later stages of tooth decay after the bacteria has reached the tooth pulp or has penetrated further into the gums or jawbone. Pressure near the tooth can be felt, as well as swelling and redness of the gums. Our friend, Dr. Josh Eastham, a dentist in Grand Junction, CO, says a serious abscess can also result in a fever.
  5. Tooth loss: A badly decayed tooth can break or fall out.

Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess

An abscess can cause the following symptoms:

  • Tooth pain that can spread to the jaw, ear, or face swelling of the mouth, face, or swollen lymph nodes around the face or neck generally feeling ill a broken tooth
  • Bacteria from a tooth abscess will spread to the bloodstream if not treated. This may lead to the development of a severe and potentially fatal infection known as sepsis.

The following are some of the signs of sepsis/infection:

  • Chills or fever
  • Rapid heartbeat rapid breathing shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, faintness, fatigue, or disorientation
  • Slurred speech
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Extreme muscle ache

Causes of Tooth Abscess

Tooth abscesses form when bacteria in the mouth penetrate deep within a tooth or its surrounding structures and grow uncontrollably.

The following are some of the most common causes of a tooth abscess.


Many patients experience cavities at some point. When plaque builds, the bacteria in the mouth start to develop plaque. Luckily, plaque can be removed with adequate flossing, brushing, and professional cleanings. However, over time it causes tooth decay. Eventually, an abscess can form if left untreated.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontitis, or gum disease, is an infection and inflammation of the gums. Periodontal disease will develop due to plaque, tartar, and cavities. Those who experience gum disease can expect their gums to recede, become swollen and sensitive. As a result, bacteria form within the pockets, causing an abscess.


A tooth abscess can also be caused by an injury to the tooth or its underlying structures. These injuries may be caused by surgery or damage to the mouth.

Treating Tooth Abscess

  • Dr. Moghadam will administer antibiotics to destroy the bacteria and prevent them from spreading while treating a tooth abscess.
  • Filling cavities, treating gum disease with scaling and root planing, which cleans below the gumline
  • Replacing missing or damaged teeth with crowns or implants

Preventing Tooth Abscess

To help avoid dental abscesses, the following steps should be taken:

  • Brush your teeth thoroughly and get rid of as much plaque as possible. Pay close attention to the area just under the gum line, where plaque can hide.
  • To help prevent tooth decay, use fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth on a regular basis to remove plaque between your teeth.
  • Make routine preventative dentistry appointments to ensure proper cleaning. A dentist may also extract hardened plaque or tartar that brushing alone cannot remove.
  • Treat diabetes, as well as any other underlying medical condition that can weaken the immune system and increase the risk of infection.
  • Visit your dentist for treatment for cavities as soon as possible before bacteria can enter deeper structures of the tooth.
  • A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that occurs as a result of a bacterial infection within the tooth, gum, or jaw.

Tooth abscesses may form as a result of tooth decay, gum disease, or oral trauma. The infection can spread throughout the body, so it’s important to visit your dentist immediately if you’re experiencing a tooth abscess. Contact College Hill Dental Group for quality dental services in Easton, PA.