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:
- intense toothache or pain in your gums
- redness inside the mouth, or outside the mouth on the face or jaw
- sensitivity to hot or cold food and drink in the affected area
- a bad taste in your mouth
- difficulty opening your mouth and chewing food
- a swollen face or jaw
- a high temperature
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:
- call 111 or get help from 111 online – they can tell you where you can get help for your symptoms
- find a dentist near you – ask if you can have 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.
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:
- you have a tooth that has not grown out of your gums properly (an impacted tooth)
- you have tooth decay or gum disease
- you have injured your teeth, gums or mouth
- you're having radiotherapy or chemotherapy
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