What is Apical Periodontitis?

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  • Written By: J.L. Drede
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2019
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Apical periodontitis is an inflammation of the gums surrounding the root of the tooth. It is usually caused by some sort of infection in the mouth, although trauma and and root canal treatment have also been known to cause the condition. There are two kinds of apical periodontitis, acute and chronic.

Acute apical periodontitis affects a single tooth at a time. When affected, the gums around the tooth will swell and turn deep red, becoming extremely sensitive to touch. The pain associated with the inflammation is usually so great that chewing and biting become very difficult. If the cause of the disease is an infection, then sometimes it may be accompanied by a fever or an overall swelling of the face.

In cases of acute apical periodontitis, the symptoms manufacture themselves quickly. The pain starts suddenly and becomes severe almost immediately. If not treated, complications from the condition can occur, including the formation of pus-filled abscesses and swelling of the lymph nodes along the face and neck. In severe cases, the infection can spread to other parts of the body and may even become life threatening.

Treatment for acute apical periodontitis usually involves removing the affected tooth completely. This removes the source of the infection as well as any abscesses or puss. If it appears that the infected tooth can be spared, then root canal treatment may be performed in lieu of complete tooth removal.


If treatment for acute apical periodntitis was not entirely successful, then it may progress into a low-grade infection that can cause the chronic variation of the disease. In these cases, the recurring infection has usually killed the tooth completely, and it has to be removed. As the tooth is dead, there is less pain because the nerves that cause the pain have died as well.

While chronic apical periodntitis is not as painful, it can cause serious complications just like the acute version of the illness. The disease can spread, affecting other teeth, and cysts can form around the apex of the affected teeth. Also just like the acute form of the disease, the infection can also spread to other parts of the body and become life threatening if not treated in time.

The best treatment for apical periodontitis is to make sure it doesn't happen in the first place. Most infections can be prevented entirely by practicing good oral hygiene. Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash on a daily basis can all reduce the chance of an oral infection. Regular checkups by a dentist are also recommended.


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