Most people have heard of tooth abscesses before, but you may not know that abscesses can form in other parts of your mouth, too. These painful pockets of pus can also form within your gum tissue, leading to gingival abscesses. Here are four things you need to know about this serious dental condition.
What are the signs of gingival abscesses?
If you have a gingival abscess, you may notice a bump on your gum tissue that looks like a pimple. You may also see an area of your gum tissue that is red and swollen. The area may also be painful. If the abscess breaks open, either on its own or due to the forces of brushing and eating, you will see (and taste) pus. If you notice any of these signs, make sure to see your dentist right away before the situation can get any more serious.
What causes gingival abscesses?
Gingival abscesses occur when bacteria gets inside your gum tissue and leads to an infection. Bacteria can enter your gums in a wide variety of ways. If you brush your teeth too aggressively, you could damage your gums and allow bacteria to get inside. Accidentally cutting your gum tissue with floss can have the same effect. Pieces of food that get stuck beneath your gums, like pieces of popcorn or seeds, can also introduce bacteria to the area.
It's important to be gentle when you brush and floss your teeth so that you don't damage your gums. Take care when eating foods with small, sharp pieces and try to keep them from getting lodged in your gum tissue. If you do suffer an injury to your gums, make sure to clean the area, even if the wound seems insignificant.
Are gingival abscesses serious?
Like tooth abscesses, gingival abscesses are a dental emergency and need to be treated right away. With prompt treatment, you should be fine, but if you delay treatment, you could suffer many complications, and some of them are life-threatening.
The infection in your gum tissue can spread to your sinuses, the air-filled cavities beside your nose. If the infection spreads to your sinuses, you'll have a stuffy or runny nose, and your face will hurt.
More serious infections can also occur. The infection can spread from your gum tissue to your bones. It may spread to your nearby bones, like your jawbone or your cheekbone, but since bone infections spread through your blood, any bone in your body could become infected. This can lead to bone death and amputation, all from a gum infection!
An untreated gingival abscess can also lead to Ludwig's Angina, an infection of the floor of your mouth. The swelling from the infection can block your airway and kill you. Fortunately, you can avoid these scary complications by getting your gingival abscess treated right away.
How do dentists treat them?
To treat your gingival abscess, your dentist will need to drain the infection. To do this, your dentist will make a small cut in your gums with a scalpel. The pus will be allowed to drain out, and then the area will be thoroughly washed with saline. If the abscess is large, your dentist may need to put a rubber tube in it so that the pus can continue draining out after the appointment.
You may also be given a prescription for antibiotics or painkillers. If a drain was placed, you'll need to go back to the dentist one to three days later to have the drain removed.
Gingival abscesses can be very serious, so if you think you have one, see a dentist right away.