Waking up to a pus pocket forming on your gums is certainly not pleasant. Whether the pocket is your only symptom or is accompanied by a toothache, it is important that you act promptly to address the issue. A pus pocket in the gums is often indicative of a dental abscess, which is an infection that can threaten the life of your tooth. Here's what to do (and expect) when you develop a pus pocket on your gums.
Assessing the Symptoms and Calling Your Dentist
Before you call your dentist, it's important to do a quick assessment of your other symptoms, so you can share as many details with your dentist as possible. Other symptoms commonly associated with a dental abscess include:
- Pain in a tooth or your gums
- A generalized aching of the jaw
- Fever and chills
- A foul taste in the mouth
- Bleeding near the pus pocket
Based on the severity of your symptoms, your dentist may want to see you right away, or they may want to schedule an appointment in a day or two. If you have a fever and severe tooth pain, there is a greater chance that the abscess extends into the root of the tooth -- not just through the gum tissue -- and prompt treatment will be needed to save the tooth.
Easing the Pain
While you are awaiting your dentist appointment, there are a few things you can do to ease any discomfort associated with the dental abscess. If your jaw or tooth is sore or aching, take an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen to dull the pain. Holding a cold compress, such as a bag of frozen vegetables, on the cheek against the painful area also helps.
If your pus pocket is draining, rinse your mouth out periodically with a salt water mixture. This will not only help kill the bacteria and keep the infection from becoming worse, but it will also ease the pain. Do not attempt to lance or drain the pus pocket yourself; you may cause further damage or force the bacteria further into your gum tissue, prompting the infection to spread.
Visiting the Dentist
When you visit the dentist, the first thing he or she will do is determine whether the infection is isolated to your gums or if it affects your tooth roots, too. Often, this is accomplished by taking x-rays. In either scenario, the abscess will then be drained. Your dentist will likely administer a local anesthetic to keep you comfortable prior to lancing the pus pocket and extracting its contents.
If the infection extends only into your gums, your dentist will probably prescribe you some antibiotics and perhaps an antiseptic mouth rinse and then send you home to recover. You may be asked to return to the office in a few weeks so your dentist can take new x-rays and ensure the infection has not migrated into a tooth.
If your tooth roots are infected, the treatment protocol is a bit more involved. Your dentist will perform a root canal procedure to extract the infected contents of the tooth root. Any decayed and infected tissue will be removed from the tooth before it is then filled and covered with a crown. Often, this is accomplished in a series of several appointments. You will likely be prescribed antibiotics to take throughout the treatment process. In some cases, if a tooth is badly infected, it may not be able to be saved with a root canal procedure and will need to be removed. A bridge or implant can be put in its place.
If you discover a pus pocket on your gums, do not ignore it and hope it gets better on its own. Failing to have it treated may lead you to lose a tooth -- or worse -- suffer from a more severe infection that spreads throughout your body. Dental abscesses are a common problem that dentists are used to treating, so there is no need to fear seeking treatment for your ailment.
For more information, contact an experienced dentist, like Tony Parsley, DMD.