Why is tooth abscess a dental emergency?

An abscessed tooth is an infected tooth. The main symptoms are pain and swelling, which depending on the amount, can be categorized as a dental emergency. If the abscess is not treated, it can lead to a serious infection in the jaw bone. 

A tooth abscess is a dental emergency because delaying treatment could allow an even more serious medical problem to develop. A tooth abscess is a painful condition caused by an infection at the center of a tooth. As your body fights the infection, it produces a collection of tissue, bacteria, and white blood cells known as pus. The resulting tooth abscess is not only painful, but if it's not properly treated, the infection could spread throughout the head and neck. In fact, an untreated tooth abscess could even lead to a deadly brain abscess. Don't put off seeing a dentist if you have an aching tooth.
 Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine
The blood supply to our oral cavity is rich and very intimate to the main blood (circulatory) system. Just think about the medication nitroglycerin that is put under the tongue to help with chest pain- how quickly it travels into the circulation to act on the heart. Oral absorption is so good/fast that many medications are taken this way. Daily when we brush, we get a few bacteria into the bloodstream however our immune system takes care of it. However it can be overwhelmed by large number of bacteria making pus causing our cheeks/gums tissue to swell (cellulitis/abscess). Whenever our immune system is overwhelmed by circulating bacteria they may infect and settle any body organ including our heart valves. If your immune system is compromised this is even more worrisome. Certainly an emergency!

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.