A periapical (root-tip) abscess is a pocket of infection
at the base of a tooth's root. The tooth becomes abscessed
after the pulp (nerve) of the tooth becomes infected.
A periapical abscess is usually caused by deep decay
or an accident (trauma to
the tooth involving nerve damage). A periapically abscessed
tooth will require either Root
Canal Therapy or an Extraction.
In some cases an antibiotic will also be prescribed.
A lateral abscess is similar to a periapical abscess, but
develops along the lateral surface of the tooth's root. In
this case, the infection comes from outside the tooth instead
of from within. A lateral abscess can either be gingival (located near the gum line) or periodontal (located
deeper in the periodontal tissues). Since most cases of lateral
abscess are due to periodontitis
(gum disease), treatment is part of an overall periodontal
(gum) treatment program.
An abscessed tooth is usually sensitive
or painful. The discomfort is what normally alerts the
patient to the problem. Occasionally, an abscess may be
detected on an x-ray and treated
before the patient experiences any discomfort. Left untreated,
an abscess may compromise the immune system and in some
cases may become life-threatening.