Oral hygiene is something that many people these days take for granted. It is extremely important that people understand just how crucial the correct dental care and oral hygiene are for their overall health to keep them healthy for a long time to come.
In this article, we will look at the topic of periodontal abscesses, what they are, what causes them and how to treat them effectively.
Periodontal disease is a disease which affects not only the gums, but also the bones surrounding the teeth. It is a localized acute bacterial infection, starting as a gum boil which has a destructive process, resulting in periapical abscess - pus expanding within the gum transforming into a problem. As well as this, it is a disease which weakens the bones surrounding the teeth, which in the worst case scenario eventually causes the teeth to fall out.
Periodontal disease is also known as a gingival abscess, and a disease which is very frequently common in adults aged 20-64. The recent Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD, 1990-2010) indicated that periodontitis is actually one of the 6th most prevalent diseases worldwide.
Let us find out exactly what causes these periodontal abscesses and what their likely symptoms are.
What Causes a Periodontal Abscess?
The main culprit behind a periodontal abscess is bacteria. The buildup of bacteria is what causes the damage and poor oral hygiene is mostly to blame for this. If a patient neglects their oral hygiene – through lack of brushing, lack of good toothbrush, or using poor-quality products – this can lead to pain and possibly long-term tooth and gum problems.
A periodontal abscess develops from bacteria which comes from plaque accumulating underneath the gums. Plaque is usually a sticky film of bacteria which develops after eating and is them removed through brushing.
Many dentists and oral hygiene specialists recommend flossing as this is what really works to remove plaque buildup, and this is what should be done often enough to keep plaque at bay. If left, plaque eventually builds up so much that often it is too late to go back and repair the problems it creates. This means an infection can easily occur in the surrounding tissue, resulting in the formation of a periodontal abscess which can be extremely painful.
A periodontal abscess can also occur when there is a deep periodontal pocket. This is a large space which develops around the teeth from gum disease. Bacteria can then live in this tiny little space and if any plaque or food get stuck within the space, it will begin to grow bacteria.
A weak immune system also contributes to gum abscesses as the body’s immune system not strong enough to fight off infections.
Symptoms of a Periodontal Abscess
One of the most frightening aspects of periodontal disease is that the symptoms can be hard to discover at first, so much so that many people do not actually notice anything different. One symptom that can seem to show that something is up is bleeding gums. This shows that there is a weakness in the gums and that may be a signal of further underlying problems.
Another silent symptom is plaque. When plaque is left for too long on the base of the tooth, it starts to go down underneath the gum and will start to cause bone loss by potentially loosening the teeth, resulting in the loss of teeth altogether.
When an abscess has started to form, the patient may feel throbbing in a deep section of their gum, and this may be acute or chronic. The affected area of the gum may also appear to be red and the tooth more sensitive when chewing.
Other symptoms can include:
- Increased sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks
- Pain whilst biting or chewing
- A loose tooth
- Bad breath due to pus discharge
Dangers of a Periodontal Abscess
So just how dangerous is a periodontal abscess? If left without treatment, a periodontal abscess can actually become life threatening. This is a risk especially for those who do not like going to the dentist as when left untreated, it can actually spread and develop into a bigger problem which is why it is so important to treat as soon as possible.
Those with poor immune systems are more at risk of the abscess spreading as their bodies are weak and not able to fight the infection as much as a healthier immune system would. In some extreme cases, abscesses can spread to the jaw, neck and even the brain. This could lead to sepsis which is a life-threatening infection which spreads throughout the body. Another bacterial infection like meningitis can also occur which will require a lengthy hospitalization.
Therefore, it is crucial that bacteria in the gum should be killed before it spreads into an abscess tooth and periodontal infection.
Further Complications of a Periodontal Abscess
There are a number of complications that can occur thanks to bacteria spreading from a dental abscess. These include:
Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone which is caused by bacteria from a dental abscess spreading into the bloodstream. This can lead to nausea, fever, and extreme pain occurring in the bone, which usually surrounds the dental abscess. As the infection spreads in the blood is can actually affect other bones in the body. To treat this, antibiotics can be taken orally, or intravenously.
Another complication is maxillary sinusitis. This is an infection of the space behind the cheekbones, which are also known as the maxillary sinuses. This can again be caused by the spread of bacteria from a dental abscess. This is not as serious a condition as when the infection reaches the bone, however it too can cause pain, fever and tenderness across cheeks. It can clear up by itself, but sometimes antibiotics will be needed.
A more serious condition is Ludwig’s angina which is an infection of the floor of the mouth. This happens when the bacteria in a dental abscess has gotten so severe, and spreads to cause swelling and extreme pain under the neck area. Left untreated, in extreme cases it could lead to a breathing obstruction which could lead to death. This condition can be treated with antibiotics, but in the case of breathing being restricted, a tracheotomy will be needed in order to open the airway again and allow for breathing.
Cavernous sinus thrombosis
One of the rarest conditions that can develop due to a dental abscess bacteria spreading is cavernous sinus thrombosis. This type of infection spreads bacteria which leads to a blood clot forming in a vein at the base of the brain. Usually antibiotics can be used to treat this, and in the more severe cases surgery can be carried out to drain the sinus completely.
How to Treat Periodontal Abscess
It is important to keep in mind that a periodontal abscess will absolutely not heal on its own, and professional treatment is required to get it fixed. The first step would be to receive a formal consultation with a specialist.
In the case of having a periodontal abscess, treatment mainly involves the draining of the abscess and the removal of any debris left in the periodontal pocket. This work should only be carried out by a dentist, or specialist periodontist. They may also recommend a deep cleaning treatment to remove further plaque and tartar from both above and beneath the gum line.
Draining the abscess is completely necessary in order to get rid of the infection for good and prevent further complications. This procedure usually involves an incision into and draining of the abscess.
Usually, in the case of a periodontal abscess, the dentist will take an X-ray to determine whether the periodontal abscess has resulted in any bone loss. In the case of bone loss, the dentist may or may not choose to remove the tooth altogether if the condition has advanced too far.
In other cases, the abscess may have affected the pulp which is the most sensitive part of the tooth. This is composed of nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue. If the pulp has been affected, then a root canal treatment may also need to be performed to remove the damaged section.
Solutions for a Periodontal Abscess
Good Oral Hygiene
To avoid periodontal abscesses from even forming, it is important to practice good oral hygiene. This means brushing your teeth twice or more per day, and using floss every day and night. It is also crucial that you pay regular visits to the dentist for check-ups and professional cleaning. Many dentists also recommend you replace your toothbrush every three to five months, as well as after any viral infections to avoid further buildup of bacteria forming in the bristles.
You may not think that your diet has much to do with your oral hygiene, but in actual fact it plays a huge part. In terms of diet, following a diet which is high in sugar will almost always lead to more cavities forming in the mouth. Therefore, it is recommended to follow a healthier diet, with more greens and veg, and less sweets and cakes for example. The best thing is to try to consume less sugar or by avoiding it at all costs. You can make small changes such as taking tea and coffee without a sugar, and then working up to larger things such as sugar free drinks or products.
Using Natural Products
In some places, dental treatment can be very costly, and so it is necessary to fight any bacteria on an ongoing basis. One thing we recommend is the use of natural products rather than those which are laden with harmful chemicals because some chemically made products such as cheap mouthwash, can actually do more harm than good.
Strong chemicals found in charcoal toothpaste for example can be so strong that they can strip the gums of their strength and weaken them as you use continue using it, leaving them more open to infection. Alcohol is another major ingredient you should be wary of in oral hygiene products as this is also strong and can cause irritation to some people’s gums.
Natural oral hygiene products are those which are specially designed to be less harmful to teeth and gums and which contain only the most organic ingredients, rather than chemical. Natural remedies such as oils can be a very powerful way to kill off and control bacteria in the mouth. This is because these oils can get into the deeper, and more difficult to reach areas where bacteria usually form and thrive.
A good example on the market right now is the Ora MD oil for naturally healthy teeth and gums. This is a product by Trusted Health Products, who are dedicated to providing only the most natural and top-quality products you can find. Using such an oil will help with gum sensitivity as well as the softening of plaque, helping to prevent bacteria.
Periodontal abscesses can be prevented through regular checkups with your dentist, and by practicing good cleaning and hygiene techniques. By using good quality and natural mouth care products, you can avoid bacteria from forming, and plaque from ruining your precious teeth. If you truly want fewer complications when it comes to your oral health, the best thing to do is keep on top of your personal hygiene and healthcare at all times and make sure you are doing the right things and using the correct products to keep you healthy and feeling your best.
If you are someone who is frightened of the dentist, remember that they are there to make sure you are feeling at your optimum, and suffering in silence will never make your condition get better.
A periodontal abscess isn’t the end of the world however, and it can be treated; therefore make sure to take care of your gums and teeth, and listen to your dentist when they tell you to floss twice a day!