When Is a Gum Problem a Dental Emergency?

My husband has an ache in his mouth. He swears he just nicked it with his fork, but to me, it looks like a pimple. That seems a strange way for a cut to manifest. I think it’s something serious and he thinks I’m over-reacting. Have you seen this before?

Amanda

Dear Amanda,

Illustration of an abscessed tooth

Your husband is going to hate to hear this, but you’re correct. This isn’t from a cut. A pimple on the gums sounds like his tooth is abscessed. This means he had a cavity that went deep enough to affect the pulp of his tooth, turning into an infection.

I’ve got an illustration of this above, When the infection no longer has anywhere to go, it tends to spill out into your gums and form a pimple.

Unlike your typical bacterial infection, with a dental infection, an antibiotic isn’t enough. A dentist has to get in there and physically remove the infected pulp. This is known as a root canal treatment. Often, a crown has to be placed as well because the tooth will become brittle and need to be protected.

An Abscessed Tooth is a Dental Emergency

An active dental infection is considered a dental emergency. These infections can spread quickly. Believe it or not, in 2018 we still have people dying from tooth infections because they put off seeing the dentist.

The reason for that is how quickly they can turn life-threatening. Think about how close his jaw is to both heart and brain. When an infection reaches those areas, things spiral downward rather quickly. Last year, a father of three young children passed away because he was planning on going to the dentist and was delayed. It spread suddenly and they couldn’t save him.

I’m saying this so your husband knows to take it seriously. If he happens to be one of many patients who have some dental anxiety and tend to avoid regular dental care, let him know there are dentists who cater to fearful patients giving them a pain-free appointment.

This blog is brought to you by Salem, MA Dentist Dr. Randall Burba.