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Tooth Abscess

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HealthWiki > Where There Is No Dentist > Chapter 7 Part 1: Problems You Will See Most Often > Tooth Abscess


A cavity that is not filled grows bigger and deeper until it touches the nerve. Germs travel inside the tooth’s root and start an infection called an abscess.

Pus forms at the end of the root, inside the bone. As the pus increases, it causes great pressure. This is why an abscess causes severe pain.

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Signs:
  • Pain all the time, even when trying to sleep.
  • Tooth often feels longer, and even a bit loose.
  • Tooth hurts when it is tapped.
  • A sore on the gums near where the root ends (gum bubble).
  • Swelling of the gums around the tooth, or swelling of the face on the same side as the bad tooth.
Treatment:

If there is no swelling, take out the tooth immediately (unless you are able to give root canal treatment). This allows the pus to escape and relieves the pain. See Chapter 11.

If there is swelling, treat the swelling first. Take out the tooth only after the swelling goes down. This is necessary because an anesthetic (see Chapter 9) will not work if there is swelling.

To treat the swelling, give an antibiotic. Penicillin by mouth is best. Use an injection only when the person is in immediate danger. For example, inject penicillin when the person has a fever or if the swelling is pressing against the throat. But remember you can treat most serious infections with simple penicillin by mouth. For the doses for serious infections, look at the box below. If you still think an injection is necessary, look at the section on procaine penicillin.

Adults and children over 25 kg (60 pounds) of weight should take the same amount of oral penicillin. Children under 25 kg should take ½ as much. For most infections, penicillin by mouth is taken 4 times a day for 5 to 7 days. The first dose is double and then the regular dose is taken every 6 hours. The person should take all of the penicillin, even if the pain or swelling goes down. See below for the correct doses.

THE BEST CHOICE SECOND CHOICE
(for those allergic to penicillin)
Penicillin: 1 tablet = 250 mg Erythromycin: 1 tablet (or capsule) = 250 mg
Give enough tablets for 5 to 7 days Give enough tablets for 5 days
First Dose (take all at once) First Dose (take all at once)
Adults and children
over 25 kg
4 tablets
(1000 mg)
Adults and children
over 25 kg
4 tablets
(1000 mg)
Children under 25 kg 2 tablets
(500 mg)
Children under 25 kg 2 tablets
(500 mg)
Then every 6 hours for 5 to 7 days Then every 6 hours for 5 days
Adults and children
over 25 kg
2 tablets
(500 mg)
Adults and children
over 25 kg
2 tablets
(500 mg)
Children under 25 kg 1 tablet
(250 mg)
Children under 25 kg 1 tablet
(250 mg)
IMPORTANT: to allow it to best fight infection,
take penicillin before eating.
IMPORTANT: to avoid upset stomach, take
erythromycin with meals.


Note: If you do not have penicillin, use amoxicillin, 3 times a day for 7 days. Adults and children over 25 kg take 500 mg each dose, and children under 25 kg take 250 mg each dose. To use ampicillin, see Where There Is No Doctor. People allergic to penicillin will also be allergic to amoxicillin and ampicillin.

For many infections, taking penicillin for 5 days should be enough. For serious infections, it may be necessary to take the antibiotics for 7 days. For however long you take them, always take the double dose the first time, and then the regular dose 4 times a day (every 6 hours). If the infection does not heal, you may need a different medicine. Usually you can take out the tooth 1 or 2 days before the end of the antibiotic treatment, but the person must continue to take all of the tablets, even after you have taken out the tooth. If not, the infection might come back even stronger than before.

If the swelling is ‘pointing,’ open it with a sharp sterile knife to release the pus. Cover the wound with a sterile dressing to keep it clean. If you are not able to do that, explain how to reduce the swelling with heat. As often as possible until the swelling goes away:

  • soak a cloth in warm water and hold it against the face.
  • hold warm water inside the mouth near the swelling. It is not necessary to add salt to the water.


Finally, give the person medicine for pain. A 2-day supply will be enough, because the penicillin and the heat will reduce the pressure and that will reduce the pain. The best medicines for pain are aspirin, which usually comes in 300 mg tablets, and acetaminophen (paracetamol), which usually comes in 500 mg tablets. Aspirin is usually cheaper, but acetaminophen does not cause stomach pain and it is safer than aspirin for children. (To avoid stomach pain, take aspirin with food, milk, or water.)

EVERY 6 HOURS (4 times a day): aspirin or acetominophen
adults 600 mg 1000 mg
children 8 to 12 years 300 mg 500 mg
3 to 7 years 150 mg 250 mg
1 to 2 years do not use 125 mg


This page was updated:19 Feb 2018