Dental abscess

A dental abscess is a build-up of pus in the teeth or gums caused by an infection. It needs urgent treatment by a dentist. A dental abscess will not go away on its own.

Check if you have a dental abscess

Signs of a dental abscess include:

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent dentist appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:

  • you think you have a dental abscess

Do not go to a GP surgery as they will not be able to give you dental treatment.


To see a dentist in an emergency or out of hours:

  • call your dentist – if they're closed, their answerphone may tell you what to do

If you do not have a dentist or cannot get to an emergency appointment:

You may have to pay for your appointment. Find out more about NHS dental charges.

Immediate action required: Call 999 or go to A&E if:

  • you are finding it hard to breathe
  • have a swollen or painful eye, or suddenly start having problems with your eyesight
  • have a lot of swelling in your mouth

How to ease the pain caused by a dental abscess

There are some things you can do to help with the pain until you can get dental treatment.


  • take painkillers, such as ibuprofen or paracetamol (children under 16 should not take aspirin)

  • eat soft foods like soup, scrambled eggs, mashed potatoes and yoghurt

  • use a soft toothbrush to clean your teeth

  • avoid having sugary, or very hot or cold, foods and drinks

Treatment for a dental abscess

Dental abscesses are usually treated by a dentist. The dentist will drain away the pus.

If a problem with your tooth has caused the abscess, you may need root canal treatment, or the tooth may be removed. You'll be given a local anaesthetic, so you do not feel any pain.

You may be offered painkillers to take for a few days after treatment and may also be given antibiotics.

Causes of a dental abscess

Dental abscesses usually happen when pus builds up beneath your teeth or gums when you have an infection in your mouth.

You may get a dental abscess if:

How to prevent dental abscesses

There are some things you can do to help prevent dental abscesses.


  • brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day - spit after brushing, do not rinse

  • clean in between your teeth every day using floss or interdental brushes

  • replace your toothbrush every 1 to 3 months

  • have regular dental check-ups so problems can be spotted early


  • do not use mouthwash straight after brushing your teeth

  • do not smoke

Page last reviewed: 20 June 2022
Next review due: 20 June 2025