You are currently viewing What Does a Tooth Abscess Look Like?


 Medically Reviewed by Dr. Charles Dennis, DMD, on February 12, 2024

A tooth abscess is a dental condition that can be extremely painful and even dangerous if left untreated. A bacterial infection causes it in the tooth or gum tissue, creating a pus pocket that can lead to swelling, inflammation, and severe discomfort. While the symptoms of a tooth abscess can vary from person to person, there are some common signs to look out for, including what it looks like.

The Appearance of a Tooth Abscess

The appearance of a tooth abscess can vary depending on the location and severity of the infection. Typically, a tooth abscess looks like a small, red bump or pimple on the gum near the infected tooth. It may be accompanied by swelling, making the abscess appear larger and more noticeable. As the infection progresses, the abscess may become more tender to the touch and feel hot or painful.

In some cases, the abscess may also cause a visible discoloration of the tooth. This can occur if the infection spreads to the pulp or the soft tissue inside the tooth that contains nerves and blood vessels. The pulp may become inflamed and die, which can cause the tooth to turn gray or black.

learn what a tooth abscess is with Abington Center Dental, a dental care provider in Scranton, PA.
Is a Tooth Abscess an Emergency?

A tooth abscess can be a dental emergency and should be treated promptly to avoid further complications. An abscess is a pocket of pus that forms due to a bacterial infection, and if left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious health problems.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, it’s important to seek emergency dental care as soon as possible:

  • Severe, throbbing toothache that doesn’t go away
  • Swelling in the face, neck, or jaw
  • Fever
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Pain when biting or chewing
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Foul taste in the mouth or bad breath
  • These symptoms can indicate that the infection has spread to the surrounding tissues or even to other parts of the body, which can be life-threatening.

In addition, if you have a weakened immune system, such as due to cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS, or certain medications, a tooth abscess can be more dangerous and require immediate attention.

Treatment for a Tooth Abscess

Treatment for a tooth abscess will depend on the severity and location of the infection, as well as other factors such as your overall health and medical history. In general, treatment options for a tooth abscess include:


In many cases, the first step in treating a tooth abscess is to drain the pus and fluid that has built up in the pocket of infection. This can relieve pressure and pain and help to reduce swelling. Your dentist may use a needle or make a small incision in the gum tissue to drain the abscess.


Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help clear the infection and prevent it from spreading. It’s essential to take the entire course of antibiotics as directed, even if you start to feel better before you finish the medication.

Root canal

If the abscess has caused damage to the tooth’s pulp, your dentist may recommend a root canal. This procedure involves removing the infected tissue from inside the tooth, cleaning and disinfecting the root canals, and filling the space with dental material.

Tooth extraction

In some cases, if the tooth is severely damaged or the infection is too advanced, the tooth may need to be extracted. Your dentist will discuss the options with you and recommend the best action based on your situation.

Pain management

Your dentist may also recommend pain management strategies such as over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription pain medication, or warm salt water rinses to help relieve discomfort.

Emergency Dentistry for Tooth Abscess in Scranton

Abington Center for Cosmetic and Family Dentistry is an emergency dentist near Scranton, in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. If you are experiencing tooth abscess symptoms, call our office to set up an urgent care appointment. We are here to help!


A tooth abscess can be a painful and concerning dental condition. While the appearance of a tooth abscess can vary, it typically looks like a small, red bump or pimple on the gum near the infected tooth. If you suspect you have a tooth abscess, it’s essential to seek prompt dental care to prevent the infection from spreading and causing further damage

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