An abscess is a collection of pus in any part of the body that causes swelling and inflammation around it. Abscesses can form in almost any part of the body, but the skin, under the skin, and the teeth are the most common affected areas. Abscesses may be caused by bacteria, parasites, and foreign substances.
Abscesses in the skin are easy to see, as the main signs are redness, swelling, and pain. However, abscesses in other areas of the body may not be seen, but they may cause organ damage.
Besides the mentioned abscesses, some other types of abscess are Abdominal abscess, Amebic liver abscess, Anorectal abscess, Bartholin abscess, Brain abscess, Epidural abscess, Peritonsillar abscess, Pyogenic liver abscess, and Spinal cord abscess.
Treatment varies depending on the type of infection, but often surgery and/or, antibiotics are needed.
1. Dental abscess
As one of the most common abscesses affects the teeth, here you have a short presentation of the main characteristics of this type of abscess.
A dental abscess (also known as a dentoalveolar abscess, tooth abscess or root abscess) is a collection of pus associated with teeth and gums. The most common type is a periapical abscess, in which the origin is usually a bacterial infection that has accumulated in the pulp of one of your teeth. The cause of infection is the growth of the bacteria from an existing cavity into the soft tissues and bones of the face and neck.
Symptoms of a dental abscess include:
- persistent throbbing toothache,
- sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures,
- sensitivity to the pressure when chewing or biting,
- swelling of your face,
- swollen lymph nodes under your jaw,
- and a sudden rush of fluid in your mouth as well as pain relief if the abscess ruptures.
Risk factors for tooth abscess are a poor dental hygiene and a high in sugar diet. To get rid of the infection, your dentist may:
- open up and drain the abscess,
- perform a root canal,
- extract the affected tooth (if the affected tooth cannot be saved),
- and prescribe antibiotics.
Unfortunately, only a dentist can treat a dental abscess by draining the pus and treating or removing any infected teeth.
However, if you want to treat somehow tooth abscess at home, the best way is to rinse your mouth with warm salt water. If an abscess ruptures by itself, warm water rinses will help to cleanse tour mouth. You can also follow these tips:
- if the abscess is small, apply warm compresses to the area for 30 minutes 4 times a day.
- do not try to drain the abscess by pressing on it, because this can push the infected material into the deeper tissues,
- and do not stick a sharp instrument into the abscess because you may injure an underlying blood vessel or spread the infection.
Preventing abscesses depends on where they develop. For example, good hygiene can help prevent skin abscesses. Dental hygiene and routine care will prevent tooth abscesses, so you should:
- use fluoridated drinking water,
- brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste,
- use dental floss or an interdental cleaner on a daily basis,
- replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months,
- eat healthy food,
- visit your dentist regularly,
- use an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth,
- and avoid smoking and excess alcohol consumption.
2. Skin abscesses
In skin abscesses, the main characteristic is the presence of bumps or boils, which are caused principally by Staphylococcus aureus, a type of bacteria commonly found on the skin. A cut or scrape in the skin allows bacteria to enter your body, which leads to the formation of boils.
For small and simple boils, you can try similar methods to dental abscesses (if possible, as soon as a boil is noticed):
- apply heat (hot soaks or warm compresses several times a day; this increases the circulation and allows the body to better fight the infection),
- prevent contamination (wash your hands thoroughly and launder clothing, towels or compresses that have touched the infected area),
- and, if the boil is small and firm, do not squeeze or lance it yourself (this can spread the infection); once the boil comes soft or forms a pustule, it can be drained, but it is not recommended to do it yourself, so see a doctor.
The most important thing in the case of abscesses, as you can see, is to visit your doctor, who will probably recommend you the usage of antibiotics, as they are usually a required method when dealing with this kind of infections.