What To Do If a Dental Abscess Bursts

A dental abscess is no joke. In addition to the discomfort, pain, bad breath, and inconvenience that they cause, they can also prove fatal. People reported that a Sacramento truck driver passed away at the age of 26 due to an oral infection. While on the road, Vadim Anatoliyevich Kondratyuk’s tooth began to hurt, and he sought treatment from a dentist before getting back on the road. However, his infection quickly progressed, and after it became systemic, his body simply couldn’t recover. 

Most patients understand that you shouldn’t ignore infections, but sometimes they wonder what to do if a dental abscess bursts on its own. In this article, we’ll explain what causes a dental abscess, why one could burst, and what you should do in case of a rupture.

Diagram featuring a healthy tooth, cavity, tooth abscess, and a dead tooth

What is a dental abscess? 

Before we discuss what to do after abscess bursts, it helps to understand what one is and how it forms. An abscess starts as a bacterial infection, which usually occurs because gum or tooth damage provides a harborage point for bacteria. As the body fights the bacteria, serious infections can cause large amounts of dead white blood cells to build up, and this leads to pus. When the pus becomes encapsulated in either gum tissue or the pulpy inner section of the tooth, an abscess forms. 

What causes a dental abscess and how might one burst? 

Any sort of unnatural pocket, dimple, or spot that occurs in or around a tooth can potentially lead to an abscess. Cavities serve as great shelters for bacteria, which is why dentists say that eating too much sugary foot and having poor oral hygiene can lead to abscesses. So do injuries to gums. Something as simple as scratching or poking the gumline with a hard food item can lead to an infection, which might cause an abscess. This is also why you don’t want to put foreign objects into your mouth; if you injure the soft tissue, you could inadvertently introduce bacteria into a wound. 

There are two main ways in which an abscess might burst. The first involves simply letting the infection run its course without any medical intervention. If you’re wondering, “Will an abscess eventually burst?”, the answer is almost always, “Yes!” Untreated oral abscesses very rarely resolve on their own, meaning that your immune system will continue to generate white blood cells — and they will continue to die, leading to more puss. The second way that an abscess can burst is by intentionally or unintentionally jabbing it with something sharp or hard. This can happen if something like a tortilla chip punctures it or if you poke it with a foreign object. 

The first thing to do when a dental abscess bursts 

If you’ve had an abscess burst, the very first thing that you should do is contact your dentist. If you don’t have one, you should find one — fast! A burst abscess constitutes a dental emergency and needs to be dealt with as quickly as possible. 

What happens if a tooth abscess bursts? Well, all of the collected pus spills into your mouth. You may experience some immediate relief from the release of pressure, but don’t think that the problem has gone away. The infection still remains, and left to itself, it can cause another abscess to grow. This is just one reason why you should seek professional help and why you shouldn’t try to pop an abscess on your own. 

What if you can’t see a dentist immediately? 

Sometimes it’s not possible to see a dentist immediately, and if your tooth abscess popped while sleeping, you may have to wait a significant period until working hours. In the meantime, you can take several steps to help safeguard the health of your mouth. 

  • Use salty water to rinse your mouth. Salt is an antimicrobial, and swishing warm water with salt dissolved in it can help keep your infection from progressing. While not a permanent solution, it can temporarily halt the progress of the infection, giving you time to meet with your dentist. 
  • Make homemade mouthwash with hydrogen peroxide and water. Hydrogen peroxide is poisonous, so you don’t want to take it internally. However, cutting it by half with water and then using it to gently rinse your mouth helps slow bacteria growth much like salt. Just don’t swallow it! 
  • Use an ice bag. Applying ice externally to your jaw or cheek won’t speed the healing process. However, it can give you some temporary relief if you’re experiencing significant discomfort. 

Why should you not delay dental treatment after an abscess bursts? 

Having a large amount of stinky pus and blood flooding into your mouth might seem like reason enough to seek medical treatment, but some patients feel as though they’ve solved the problem when their abscess pops. After all, they’ve released some pressure and may even experience a decrease in pain. As we’ve already mentioned, though, that doesn’t mean they’ve eliminated the infection, and the abscess will likely grow again. And that’s far from the only reason to seek out the services of a dentist. Consider the following consequences of leaving an oral abscess untreated: 

  • The infection may grow worse. A popped abscess is an open wound, one that’s already compromised by bacteria. Left untreated, there’s always the possibility of introducing new types of bacteria into it, making the situation far worse. How? Failing to clean the area, which will likely be tender, may cause bacteria to multiply. Plus, abscesses are incredibly unpleasant, and if you vomit (which is an unfortunate possibility), you’ll introduce new germs. 
  • The infection may spread to other parts of your body. Ever wonder what happens if an abscess bursts in your mouth and you swallow it? That bacteria travels to new bodily systems and could very seriously sicken you. Sepsis is also a possibility.  
  • The infection may cause swelling that could interfere with your airway. When ruptured, abscesses near your jaw can start a chain reaction that causes nearby tissues to swell. If those tissues happen to include flesh near your airway, you could end up in a life-threatening situation. 
  • You now have an open wound in a bacteria-rich environment. No matter how much you brush or swish, your mouth isn’t a clean place. In most cases, it’s only a matter of time until a popped abscess becomes a major problem. 

Should you try home remedies or treatments? 

As long as they don’t keep you from seeking professional treatment, there’s no harm in using some home remedies for a burst abscess. We’ve already mentioned tried-and-true remedies such as salt water, hydrogen peroxide, and ice. Others include: 

  • Oregano essential oil 
  • Clove essential oil 
  • Thyme essential oil 
  • Peppermint essential oil 
  • Garlic paste 
  • Baking soda mouth rinse 
  • Fenugreek tea 

If you’ve had a dental abscess rupture, contact us today at Westend Dental. We have a patient-focused approach and want to restore you to fully functioning health as quickly as possible!