Last updated: 04 October 2011
A dental abscess is a collection of pus that can form in the teeth or gums as a result of a bacterial infection.
Bacteria are found in plaque (a byproduct of food, saliva and bacteria in the mouth). Plaque damages teeth and gums and can eventually infect the soft tissue inside a tooth or gums, forming an abscess.
There are two types of dental abscess:
- periapical abscess (the most common type), when bacteria infect the inside of the tooth as a result of dental decay
- periodontal abscess, when bacteria infect the gums
See Causes of dental abscess for more information about the two types.
Dental abscesses can be very painful and tender and can make a person feel unwell.
Without dental treatment, a dental abscess will get worse and may lead to the destruction of surrounding bone and other serious health problems.
Your GP will be able to prescribe appropriate treatment, but the only long-term solution for a dental abscess involves treatment from a dentist.
Continue to next section: Symptoms of dental abscess