A gum abscess is a pocket of infection in the gums or the space between the teeth and the gums.

Bacteria may reach the area due to a dental abscess or another oral hygiene issue, such as periodontitis.

Gum abscesses are slightly different to dental abscesses, though they may share some of the same symptoms and treatments. Home remedies may help treat the symptoms, but the abscess will need treatment and drainage from a dentist.

In this article, learn more about gum abscesses and how to treat them.

What is a gum abscess?
a Gingival Abscess in the mouth
Gingival abscess. Image credit: DRosenbach, 2010.

A gum abscess is an infected pocket of tissue in the gums.

The mouth and gums are normally full of both good and bad bacteria. A buildup of bad bacteria contributes to plaque and tartar, which may lead to tooth decay and other dental issues.

If bad bacteria find their way into an area of open tissue, they may take over, multiplying and causing an infection.

The body responds by sending white blood cells to fight the infection. To do so, they will cause swelling to try to cut off and eliminate the bacteria. The result is a swollen, painful pocket of pus called an abscess.

There are two main types of gum abscess: gingival and periodontal.

Gingival abscesses only occur in the gum tissue. They do not involve the teeth at all. They may occur if a sharp piece of food gets lodged directly into the gums and causes an infection.

Periodontal abscesses occur in the space between the teeth and the gums. These are more common in people with periodontal disease, though they may also develop due to injury or food getting stuck between the teeth and the gums.

Treatment

The treatment options for a gum abscess include:

Dental procedures

In the dentist’s office, treatment for a gum abscess includes draining the abscess, as well as removing any contaminants from the area between the gums and the teeth.

If a person has any signs of plaque buildup or periodontal disease, the dentist may recommend specialized cleaning procedures to help remove plaque and tartar buildup.

The abscess will also need drainage. The dentist may make a small incision in the swollen area to drain it.

When the abscess is open and discharging pus, they may simply apply pressure to the area to allow the pus to drain completely.

Dentists will generally order an X-ray to see if the abscess has caused any breakdown of the bone. Bone loss may occur in a severe infection, or if the gum abscess goes without treatment for a long time.

If the bone loss is severe, the dentist may recommend procedures to help repair the bone and surrounding tissues.

If a gum abscess affects the inner pulp of the tooth, a person may need a root canal. In some cases, the dentist may also recommend extracting the tooth next to the abscess.

People with periapical abscesses — which occur when bacteria invade the dental pulp, due to widespread decay, trauma, or a cracked tooth, for example — may need a root canal or an extraction.

Antibiotics

Antibiotic medications are another key part of the standard treatment process for a gum abscess.

Oral antibiotics can kill the bacteria causing the infection and keep the infection from spreading or reinfecting the area. This may also reduce swelling and pain in the area.

Antibiotics are not a replacement for dental work, however, and they will not cure the abscess.

Home remedies

A dentist may also recommend some simple home remedies to help relieve the symptoms. For instance, taking over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) can reduce pain and swelling.

Additionally, rinsing the mouth with warm salt water may help reduce pain and sensitivity.

Home remedies might help manage the symptoms, but the pocket of bacteria and pus will need treatment from a dentist.

See your Brigham City Dentist today