What is a Mouth Abscess?

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  • Written By: Nat Robinson
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
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A mouth abscess is a localized collection of pus in the mouth. It is generally caused by a mouth infection. The infection can come from any structure in the mouth, including the teeth, gums, tongue or jaw. One factor which can contribute to the formation of a mouth abscess is being predisposed to infections due to a weakened immune system. Most commonly, abscesses in the mouth are caused by poor dental hygiene.

One of the most common causes of a mouth abscess is a tooth infection. This is generally caused by a bacterial infection in a tooth. A tooth infection can develop as the result of a decaying tooth. Injuries causing a break or chip in the teeth can also lead to inflammation. Toothaches are one of the most dominant characteristics of this type of infection, which will generally need medical attention.

Tooth infections are typically an overall bad experience. Other than pain in the tooth, fever, chills and an overall unwell feeling can be symptoms. Some people may have swelling in the glands of the neck. The teeth may also become overly sensitive to drinks and foods that are really hot or cold. One of the most embarrassing complaints of this condition can be bad breath.


Gingivitis is a gum inflammation which can lead to a periodontal abscess. This type of mouth abscess will generally appear on the gums. If left untreated, this could lead to periodontitis, which is a severe disease in the gums. The disease can spread from the gums into the ligaments which support the teeth. As it progresses, the teeth will generally pull more away from the gums and may begin to fall out.

Bleeding gums is a common symptom of a mouth abscess on the gums. Generally, brushing the teeth will induce the bleeding. There may be pain in the gums and they may become tender to touch. In appearance, the gums can be red and swollen. Some people may experience a bad taste in the mouth as well.

Mouth abscesses can also form in the jaw. An abscess may form in the jaw if the infection travels from a nearby structure in the mouth. It may also be caused by an injury. The jaw may be injured by biting it or if it is penetrated by a sharp foreign object from inside of the mouth. In very severe incidences, the jaw bone can become infected by a mouth or dental abscess if the infection travels down into the bone.

A dentist should be seen to adequately diagnose a mouth abscess. Time is of the essence as an abscess can become a very serious situation. If not treated properly, there can be tooth loss; an untreated infection can damage other parts of the body, too. Antibiotics are the most general form of treatment to get rid of the infection, along with anti-inflammatory medicines for pain. One of the most general ways to prevent an abscess or a recurrence is to improve dental hygiene.


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