An abscess is caused by an infection that gets into the pulp, or inner sanctum of a tooth. It is mostly commonly the result of an untreated cavity. A root canal procedure is usually the recommended treatment in order to save the tooth.
The pulp of the tooth is made up of important blood vessels and connective tissues that maintain the teeth as they develop to maturity.
Tooth decay opens the tooth to infection by boring through the outer layers of enamel and dentin and letting the infectious bacteria effect the pulp.
If a tooth infection is left to fester is can spread to the gums, into the jawbone and from there extend to other parts of the body including the brain. This could mean serious medical consequences.
There may not be any early symptoms of pulp infection unless the tooth has been fractured or injured in some way, but as the infection advances the area will become red and swollen. Just the normal stress from chewing will cause pain, and the tooth will be much more sensitive to hot and cold sensations. You will feel the difference immediately.
A routine dental exam with xrays will be able to confirm that your tooth is abscessed. Your dentist will test the area for sensitivity and see if your gums are swollen. An additional test using an electric pulp tester will be able to tell your dentist more about the extent of your infection. The test is not painful but you may feel a slight tingle.
Your dentist may perform a root canal or if his diagnosis indicates it he may refer you to an endodontist who specializes in diseases involving the pulp tissue. The procedure will begin after the area around the infected tooth has been numbed. The dentist will drill into the tooth and remove the contaminated part of the pulp. The next step will be to determine the length of the root canal using xrays and an apex locater. This is done in preparation for treatment. Then the dentist will clean out the root canals of the tooth and apply an antiseptic compound in readiness for the fillings. He may use a temporary filling or leave the tooth alone to heal until it is ready for the final crown.
When the restoration process has been completed your pain and symptoms will subside right away and you can expect a continued successful result if you keep up with a routine of good oral health habits.