May also be called: acute dentoalveolar abscess, acute apical dental abscess, acute dental abscess, apical abscess, tooth abscess, dental abscess, periapical infection, tooth infection, abscessed tooth
A periapical (per-ee-AP-ih-kul) abscess is a collection of infected material (pus) that forms at the tip of the root of a tooth.
Periapical abscesses form after bacteria enter the tooth and cause an infection in the pulp — the innermost portion of the tooth that consists of connective tissue, nerves, and blood vessels. This is usually the result of tooth decay or an injury that causes the tooth to chip or crack. When the pulp becomes infected, the body's immune system sends white blood cells to fight the infection. It's these white blood cells, along with other debris, that can form a collection of pus near the tiny hole (apical foramen) that sits at the tip of the root of the tooth.
Periapical abscesses can cause severe tooth pain and sensitivity to temperature; a fever; pain while chewing; and swelling in the gum, glands of the neck, and upper or lower jaw. Treatment for a periapical abscess can involve antibiotic medications, draining the abscess, or performing root canal surgery to save the tooth. In rare cases, the tooth may have to be pulled.
If left untreated, periapical abscesses can get worse and cause serious complications. In many cases, however, prompt treatment can cure the infection and save the affected tooth. Practicing good dental hygiene can reduce the risk of a periapical abscess.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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