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Self-Care For Dental Abscesses

Updated: Nov 9

While you may not be able to treat and get rid of a dental abscess at home, you can however manage the symptoms and impede it's progression.


dental abscess around crowns
dental abscess around crowns

We're going to give you tips on what are the best dental abscess self-care practices. You will be as prepared as you possibly can while you wait for your dentist appointment.


Table of Contents:


Preoperative dental abscess self-care

A dental abscess is a full blown infection and should not be taken lightly. While you're waiting for your dentist appointment, here are some dos and don'ts on how you can manage your own symptoms and prevent it from getting worse.


Dos:

  • Take acetaminophen and ibuprofen together for systemic pain relief.

  • Use a topical anesthetic for topical relief.

  • Rinse frequently with salt water or baking soda.

  • Use a cold compress.

  • Sleep with your head elevated.

  • Schedule a dentist appointment.


Don'ts:

  • Don't try popping the abscess yourself.

  • Don't delay seeing a dentist.

  • Avoid chewing on the affected side.

  • Avoid foods that aggravate it.

  • Avoid dangerous home remedies like garlic, bleach, and gasoline.


Most home remedies will only temporarily make your toothache more bearable but they won't do anything to permanently get rid of the infection.


Pain management

Dental abscesses can be extremely painful but you can reduce some of the discomfort by taking OTC pain medication. A combination of systemic and topical analgesics can help alleviate the tooth abscess pain.

  • A systemic painkiller would be taking ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

  • A topical analgesic would be using orajel or anbesol.


advil dual action

While you may not be able to eliminate the tooth pain completely, doing the above can make it more bearable. If you find that traditional pain relievers aren't working for you, you should give advil dual action a try, which is the most effective OTC painkiller on the market.


Swelling management

Mild swelling can be managed by applying a cold compress on the affected side of your face. The cold will numb the area and the pressure will slow down the rate of swelling. Make sure you use it for 15 mins on and 15 mins off because continuous use can lead to frostbite.


Keep area clean

An abscess in your mouth is a cesspool of bacteria and infection. They often thrive in low pH environments so what you can do is disrupt it by keeping the area clean and raising the pH as much as possible.


This can be accomplished by brushing, flossing, and rinsing frequently with salt water. All of these activities disrupt the low pH in the mouth and slows down the spread of the abscess.


Don't aggravate it

What you should do is avoid activities which make the toothache worse and do things that make it feel better.

  • If chewing or eating certain types of foods make it worse, you need to stop doing that.

  • Sleeping with an extra pillow underneath your head often gives you better sleep.


Seek professional help

Last but not least, you need to accept the fact that your abscess will not go away on its own. The only way to treat it and get rid of it permanently is by seeing a dentist.


Schedule an appointment as soon as possible so that you can finally get out of pain and get rid of the swelling. All of the tips which we've given you above are not a substitute for professional help. They're merely meant as self-care tips while you're waiting for the appointment.


Abscess treatment with dentist

The only way to eliminate a dental abscess in your mouth is by seeing your dentist and treating the source of it. All self-care practices and home remedies simply reduce your discomfort but do nothing to address the source.


Depending on what type of abscess it is, the required treatment will differ. No two infections in the mouth are the same and care will need to be tailored to your needs.


Oral abscess treatments:

  • Dental abscess drainage. All types of oral swelling that are fluctuant in the mouth will need to be drained in order to reduce its size. This is accomplished with a procedure called an incision and drainage. You may leave with a penrose drain in your mouth.

  • Root canal. Infections which are odontogenic (originates within the tooth) often stem from an infected tooth nerve. A root canal, which is a conservative endodontic procedure can remove the nerve while leaving the tooth intact in the jaw.

  • Tooth extraction. Some abscesses are so severe that they render the tooth non-restorable. If your condition is that bad, you may have no choice but to have the entire tooth removed.

  • Prescription antibiotics. Prescription antibiotics such as amoxicillin and chlorhexidine may be prescribed to augment your dental abscess treatment. The pills fight infection systemically while the rinse does so topically. Using them reduces the chance that the infection may return.


antibiotics amoxicillin
antibiotics amoxicillin

All of the above treatments cannot be completed at home. What we're trying to say is that you need to see a dentist! This is the only reliable and fastest way to get rid of the abscess.


Dental abscess aftercare

After you have your abscess treated by a dentist, following proper aftercare instructions are imperative to preventing the infection from coming back. In other words, you still need to practice self-care even after your treatment.


Abscess aftercare:

  1. Take all prescribed medications as instructed.

  2. Rinse frequently with salt water.

  3. Do NOT play with the surgical site.

  4. Keep your fingers and tongue away from it as much as possible.

  5. Don't touch the stitches if there are any.

  6. Use a cold compress for the first 24-48 hours.

  7. Return for follow up if you were given an appointment.


During the aftercare phase, we would advise to stay away from holistic home remedies and stick with the proven ones above. The infection should be gone and all you need to do is support the healing and recovery process.


As long as you do as you're told, nothing should go awry.


Takeaway

While dental abscess self-care may not cure your condition, it is important to at least implement these at home best practices. They can help alleviate your pain and also impede the progression of the disease.


The best way to eliminate your infection is by seeing a dentist and getting proper dental treatment. Although even after then, you still need to take care of the surgical site with at home aftercare.

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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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