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Dental Pain / Abscess

A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can form inside the teeth, in the gums, or in the bone that holds the teeth in place. They’re caused by a bacterial infection and are often painful, but not always.


There are two types of dental abscess:

  • A periapical abscess: an abscess at the end of a tooth.

  • A periodontal abscess: an abscess in the gum.

Abscesses don’t go away on their own and can sometimes spread to other parts of the body and make you ill. That’s why you should always seek help from your dentist immediately.

    • Pain that spreads to the ear, jaw and neck on the same side as the tooth or gum

    • Pain that worsens when you lie down

    • An intense throbbing pain that can be worse

    • Redness and swelling in the face

    • A tender, discoloured or loose tooth

    • Shiny, red and swollen gums

    • Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drinks

    • Bad breath

    • An unpleasant taste in your mouth

    • Fever

    • Feeling unwell

  • If you think you have a dental abscess, you should always visit your dentist. Your dental practice should have an out-of-hours telephone number that you can contact for advice. If you’re not registered with a dentist, you should call the NHS on 111 who can provide details of dentists in your area. If your abscess is causing you difficulty breathing or swallowing, please go straight to A&E.

     You might also like to take a painkiller such as ibuprofen or paracetamol whilst waiting for an appointment. You can try eating cool, soft foods, eating on the opposite side of your mouth and using a soft toothbrush. If the pain persists whilst you are waiting fr your appointment your pharmacy can help providing pain relief and antibiotics if needed. 

Further resources

Learn more about dental abscesses here.