A tooth that has become infected is referred to as an abscessed tooth. An abscessed tooth normally results from gum disease or tooth decay, when an infection is present deep within the gum or tooth. When there is an infection present that is severe enough to irritate the trigeminal nerve, extreme pain can occur. This pain is often described as a poking or jabbing sensation and in some cases, the feeling of "pins and needles" that suddenly turns into a feeling of electrical shock-like stabbing sensation.
The trigeminal nerve is a large nerve found in the head. This nerve is responsible for sending impulses from sensations, such as touch, pain and pressure felt by the face to the brain. The areas of the face include the forehead, around the eyes, the jaw and gums. The trigeminal nerve separates into three different branches, which is why sensations can be felt on one entire side of the face. This pain is called trigeminal neuralgia, also known as tic douloureux. When pain from an abscessed tooth is present, the trigeminal nerve sends that pain impulse to the brain.
Abscessed Tooth Symptoms
Tooth decay, gum disease or trauma to the tooth can cause an infection. If the infection is left untreated, bacteria can find its way into the centre of the tooth, known as the pulp. A common symptom of an abscessed tooth is a severe toothache; however, other symptoms such as a fever, redness or swelling of the gums, pain or discomfort when chewing and malaise can also be present. If a tooth abscess is left untreated, the infection can continue to spread to the jawbone, soft tissue areas and sinus cavities.
If you believe you have an abscessed tooth, your first course of action is to call your dentist to schedule an immediate appointment. Your dentist will check the tooth with a dental instrument and you may feel pain when he does this. If he notices that your gums are swollen and red, he may suspect an abscessed tooth. X-rays of the tooth may also be taken.
The goal of treatment is to prevent the loss of the tooth. To rid the tooth of infection, it may need to be drained, which is accomplished by doing a root canal. Sometimes a small incision can be made into the gum, which will allow the infection to drain. Unfortunately, if the damage is too severe, the tooth may have to be extracted. Antibiotics are often prescribed to fight the infection.
To prevent having an abscessed tooth you should follow basic oral hygiene; brush and floss on a daily basis, and make sure you see your dentist regularly. If you should experience trauma to your tooth, see your dentist immediately.