What is a Gum Abscess?

A gum abscess is not only unsightly; it can also be quite painful.  If you get one you may become self-conscious about opening your mouth.  In addition, you can also experience quite a bit of pain.  You might feel a throbbing toothache at the location of the abscess.  You may also feel peripheral pain.  Your lymph nodes may be sensitive or you might get a sinus headache.

A gum abscess is a collection of pus in the gums of the mouth.  It will tend to look like a white bubble like sack at the base of a tooth or further down in the gums.  The puss is usually bacteria and the whiteness comes from dead white blood cells and other matter trapped in the sack.

What causes a gum abscess?

There are three typical causes for a gum abscess.  They may be present separately or work in conjunction.  First, you might get food trapped deep in the gum line and that could lead to infection.  Second, you might get an infection that negatively affects your dental health.  Third, you might have an underlying immune system problem that is negatively effecting your body’s overall health but which happens to manifest itself in your gums for the time being.


The symptoms of a gum abscess are mainly pain and discomfort.  As I mentioned before you might not only feel a throbbing pain in your closest tooth, but you might also get sinus headaches as well.  An untreated gum abscess often results in fever as well.

If you break the abscess open, you will have a most unwelcome surprise, a mouth filled with bacteria, dead tissue, and white blood cells.  Wash your mouth out with warm water immediately and spit out the matter.  Avoid swallowing as it may make you nauseous.


If you have a gum abscess, you need to contact your dentist.  He or she will examine the abscess and the two of you can decide the best treatment.  Typically, the dentist will recommend that you remove it, but the real determination has to be about the cause of the abscess.

The abscess may just be a sign that your tooth has died.  When an abscess is at the base of tooth it often means the tooth is in trouble.  You dentist might test the tooth for temperature and sensation.  Often the dentist will take an x-ray to determine the extent of the damage. 

Often an abscess is a sign that a good deal of dental work is necessary; root canals are common fixes.

Because one of the major causes of gum abscesses is immune deficiencies, you will want to contact your regular physician to get yourself checked out.  If you know you have an immune deficiency, you should inform your dentist in advance of any dental work so that he or she might prescribe antibiotics, if necessary.


The key to avoiding a gum abscess is to practice good oral hygiene.  Brushing and flossing daily will help keep bacteria from forming beneath the gum line.  Always be sure to brush at a forty-five degree angle when you are brushing at the gum line to ensure that the bristles penetrate between the gum and the teeth where bacteria love to grow.  If you find that you tend to develop yellowing at the base of your tooth this may be a sign of inadequate or improper brushing.  Consult you dentist about how to better this problem.

If you develop any problem with you teeth, such as browning or a cavity, get it checked out as soon as possible so that bacteria does not have time to exacerbate the problem.

With persistent and proactive measures, gum abscesses and gum disease in general is almost 100 percent treatable and need not lead to greater problems.




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