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Can Popping a Gum Abscess Kill You?

Updated: Oct 27

You won't die from popping a gum abscess but it also won't make the infection go away because only a dentist can properly treat it. Rather than trying to DIY at home for momentary pain relief, you should see a dentist for permanent pain relief.


Gum abscess - pimple on the gums
Gum abscess - pimple on the gums

The image above shows what an abscess on the gum looks like, its appearance is that of a pimple on the gums.


Popping a gum abscess won't kill you

You will not die from having a gum abscess popped because draining an infection is a part of the process for how your dentist treats it. There is simply no other way to physically remove the large quantity of purulence (pus) from the abscess without popping and draining it.


Evidence of this can be seen in how your dentist treats it.


As a part of getting rid of the gum abscess, one of the procedures involves popping and draining it. That is how they get the gums which is swollen with pus to decrease in size and return to normal.


large abscess on gums
large abscess on gums

The procedure is a physical process that gets rid of the inflammatory exudate inside of the swelling. The technical term for the treatment is an incision and drainage. The incision is when the abscess gets popped and the drainage is when the infected fluids get drained out.


Therefore, if dentists all around the world have been draining gum abscesses, there is no reason to believe that if you pop it yourself, you would die. You'll definitely survive to see the next sunrise.


However we would caution against trying to do it yourself because draining the infection is only the first step of the overall treatment. This is especially true if the abscess is in its later and more advanced stages of swelling.


Gum abscess will remain despite being popped

Draining a gum abscess is only a part of the treatment because it treats the symptom but not the source of the infection. Therefore, if all you do is just pop it, the infection will return again and usually with a vengeance. Essentially you haven't treated the source of the swelling.


Source of gum abscess

The most common cause of a gum abscess is foreign body impaction such as from food while eating. Although there can be other causes as well.


Causes:

  • Popcorn kernel

  • Seeds or small hard foods

  • Fish bones

  • Tortilla or potato chips

Therefore the gum swelling is usually the result of food being lodged into the gums. Even if you pop the swelling and get it to decrease in size, you've done nothing to dislodge the stuck food. Ultimately, the source which is the impacted food remains in the gum and the swelling will return later on.


Alternative source

Most people develop this type of swelling from mealtime accidents but another possible cause would be localized severe periodontitis. Those with severe gum disease have very loose gums and that makes it prone to getting food stuck.


However, if there is major tartar build up in a certain spot, that can also result in swelling as well. If it gets bad enough it can become abscessed. Nonetheless, the treatment still remains the same.


Full treatment

Complete treatment for a gum abscess would involve draining the abscess in addition to removing the source. Typically, scaling and root planing along with gingival curettage is effective in removing the lodged foreign object. This procedure is commonly known as a deep teeth cleaning but it is done in a localized area.


Since the object is usually embedded deep within the gums or in the gum pocket, you need to be able to reach it. Brushing and flossing won't be able to get to it. You've probably been brushing, flossing, and rinsing a lot but to no avail.


The reason why none of the at home remedies are working is because you require professional help.


Permanent treatment requires a dentist

If you attempt to pop it yourself, you only be able to address one of the symptoms of the disease. Sure, decreasing the swelling will offer you temporary pain relief but it does nothing to cure it permanently.


For permanent treatment to make the infection go away, you will require the assistance of a dentist. Only they can perform scaling and root planing.


What to expect during scaling/root planing:

  1. Administer local anesthesia to numb the area.

  2. Gross debridement with the ultrasonic.

  3. Scale and root plane the teeth as deep as possible with scalers.

  4. Curette the gingival as well.

  5. Flush out the entire area with an antibiotic solution.


The aftermath of a deep cleaning
The aftermath of a deep cleaning

Afterwards, depending on severe the swelling is you may be prescribed antibiotics. Although you should expect to be given a RX for an antibiotic rinse called chlorhexidine. Using this mouthwash twice a day for 2 weeks will help the gums heal faster.


We recommend following the standard abscess self-care protocol.


Takeaway

If you pop a gum abscess it certainly won't kill you because even your dentist needs to do drain it as a part of its treatment. However that doesn't mean you should attempt to pop it by yourself and think you've successfully treated it.


The reason is because you've done nothing to address the source of the infection. Typically the abscess is from a foreign body being lodged in the gums and until you get that out, the infection will persist. Therefore the only one who can successfully treat it is your dentist.


Basically what we're trying to say is you should make an appointment for a dental consultation.

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About the author: Dr David Chen, DDS

Hello, I'm Dr Chen and I'm an actively practicing dentist in Long Island City, NY. I graduated from Columbia University College of Dental Medicine in 2016 but prior to going to dental school I was already working in the dental field. It's been more than a decade since I first got to know dentistry and let me tell you, time flies by quickly. Since then I've developed a fondness for writing, which is how this all got started!

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Medical Disclaimer:

This blog is purely meant for information purposes and should not be used as medical advice. Each situation in your mouth is unique and complex. It is not possible to give advice nor diagnose any oral conditions based on text nor virtual consultations. The best thing to do is to go in person to see your dentist for an examination and consultation so that you can receive the best care possible.

The purpose of all of this oral health information is to encourage you to see your dentist and to inform you of what you may expect during your visit. Due to the unfortunate nature of dentistry, there isn't really any true home remedies that will get rid of dental problems. Roughly 99.99% of them require in-person intervention by a healthcare professional.

Hint: That is the reason why you can't eliminate seeing dentists in your life!

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