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What is Periodontal Abscess?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A periodontal abscess is a bacterial infection that most often develops in the peridontium, a supporting structure that is between the tooth and the gums. It can also develop elsewhere but at first doesn’t affect the main structure of the tooth, though it can cause tooth pain. The most common symptom of a periodontal abscess is what is called a gum ball or gum boil, a swelling of the gum tissue that protrudes from the gum.

Other symptoms besides the gum boil could occur, and they could include discomfort chewing on the side of the mouth where it is present or a sensation of pain at all times. Gum boils can rupture or they can simply enlarge. When they rupture, yellow or white liquid that is somewhat thick may flood the mouth. It’s also possible for the periodontal abscess to spread to the mouth or sinuses during rupture or prior and cause a much more complicated condition.

Most people who have this condition are adults and they may already have some development of gum disease. It is definitely most common for adults with periodontal disease to get a periodontal abscess. Although rare, sometimes children get them too. However gum disease isn’t usually the cause. A foreign body, such as an irritating piece of food, may get trapped in the peridontium and begin to create infection; popcorn husks are legendary for their ability to do this. Such a circumstance can also occur in adults.

Given the potential for complications to mouth, sinuses and teeth, it is never a good idea to ignore a periodontal abscess. People should see their dentists right away, and treatment, especially in early stages is not that difficult. Dentists may want to drain the abscess and also look for any foreign matter than might have created the problem. Some scaling of a tooth may be needed. Alternately dentists may need to do scaling and root planing to address the early symptoms of gum disease. Antibiotics are also prescribed and dentists might prescribe pain medication if needed.

If a periodontal abscess has been caused by gum disease, scaling and planing usually need to be repeated every couple of years to keep the disease from getting worse. Other treatments might be required if periodontal disease is more advanced. As mentioned, gum disease is seldom the cause of periodontal abscess in children, so treatment may simply involve removal of foreign matter, puncture of the abscess and a course of antibiotics.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By cmsmith10 — On Jul 27, 2010

I wanted to add that there are warning signs that indicate the possibility of periodontal disease. If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth and are red, swollen or tender, you should see your dentist.

Another warning sign is if your permanent teeth are becoming loose or look like they are separating.

Bad breath can also be a warning sign.

By medicchristy — On Jul 27, 2010

@wesley91: Treatment at home depends on what stage of periodontal disease you are in. The first stage, gingivitis, is reversible in most people. The first warning sign of gingivitis is blood on your toothbrush after brushing.

Your dentist can determine whether or not you have gingivitis. You need to have a professional tooth cleaning and floss regularly. Antibiotic mouth rinses are often recommended if you have gingivitis.

If the first stage of periodontal disease, gingivitis, is left untreated, it will lead to full periodontitis.

By wesley91 — On Jul 27, 2010

What kind of periodontal gum disease treatment can I do at home?

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
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