Do Abscesses Go Away After a Tooth Extraction?

Updated: Oct 14

After a tooth extraction an abscess will go away because you've removed the source of the infection and also established a path of drainage. However, you can speed up the healing process and get rid of the abscess faster by popping it and taking the full course of antibiotics in addition to the extraction.



Table of Contents:



Extracting the tooth removes the source of infection

The source of the abscess comes from the tooth itself or more specifically, the infected nerve. Extracting the tooth from the mouth will get rid of the abscess because it eliminates the source.


An extraction is one of the only two permanent cures to a dental abscess because it is able to address the source of the infection. The other method would be a root canal, which removes the infected nerve but leaves the tooth intact within the mouth. All other treatments and home remedies will do no such thing as fix an abscess and that is an inviolable principle.


Since only extractions and root canals can get rid of an abscess, it is also the reason why taking antibiotics without any other treatment won't make it go away.


How to identify the source of the abscess

Getting a tooth extraction is an irreversible procedure so you definitely want to make sure that you are treating the correct tooth! One method of identifying and verifying the correct tooth, which is causing the abscess is by tracing it with gutta percha.

  1. Identify dental abscess.

  2. Insert gutta percha into abscess as far as it can go.

  3. Take a dental x-ray.

  4. The abscessed tooth is the one where the gutta percha points to.


gutta percha

Gutta percha is the root canal filling material but it could also be used in a creative way, which can pin point the source of tooth abscesses. This method only works if the infection has progressed through the stages of tooth abscesses where it forms a pimple on the gums.


Now here is an x-ray of what the gutta percha tracing to the abscessed tooth looks like:


As you can see on the x-ray, the gutta percha leads straight to the source of the abscess. The abscess is the big black circle on the x-ray.


An important point that we want to make is that this technique to identify the source of an abscess is EVIDENCE that the entire source of the infection comes from the tooth. That is why an extraction will permanently eliminate the abscess afterwards. Home remedies cannot extract the tooth and thus, cannot get rid of your tooth abscess.



Popping and draining the abscess gets rid of it

Extracting the tooth only removes the tooth but it leaves the abscess or pimple on your gums untreated. The infection will most likely resolve on its own eventually since the source is gone but you can help speed up the healing by popping and draining the remaining abscess in your mouth.


Therefore all dentists will usually extract the tooth AND pop the rest of the abscess even though they may not explicitly say it. It is part of the standard of care to do both together. I mean if you can speed up the healing why not do it right?


As the infection is being drained you can see all of that pus and blood ooze out of the pimple. It is absolutely necessary for the abscess to be drained in addition to having the tooth extracted. That is just good practice.



Taking antibiotics clears out the abscess faster

Antibiotics may not be the primary method of treatment for a tooth abscess but taking them in conjunction with an extraction and drainage will certainly speed up the healing process. It ensures that any remaining bacteria will get eliminated and also helps in preventing the infection from recurring.


There are instances where after treatment, the infection comes back and using antibiotics can help decrease the chances of that happening.


With that being said, it is not always necessary to take antibiotics so your doctor may not prescribe it for you. That is the case if your healthcare provider is absolutely certain that they cleared out the abscess with an extraction and drainage. If they have any doubts about all of the infection being removed, they will give you a course of antibiotics.


Therefore whether you need antibiotics or not afterwards will all depend on the severity of the abscess. As healthcare professionals, we not only have to take into account risk of infection but also risk of developing antibiotic resistance. We cannot over prescribe medications because it could be detrimental to your health in the future. It is a more holistic approach to treatment.



Takeaway

What happens to a tooth abscess after an extraction is that it will go away eventually. Nonetheless, there are extra treatments that you can utilize to speed up the healing process and get rid of the infection faster. You should pop the abscess and drain it directly. Then you should take the full course of antibiotics to ensure that every last bacteria which was causing the infection is killed off.



Author: Written by Dr David Chen, a dentist in long island city.

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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!