Abscessed Tooth in Children: Care Instructions

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Picture of an abscessed tooth

Your Care Instructions

An abscessed tooth is a tooth that has a pocket of pus in the tissues around it. Pus forms when the body tries to fight an infection caused by bacteria. If the pus cannot drain, it forms an abscess. An abscessed tooth can cause red, swollen gums and throbbing pain, especially when your child chews. Your child may have a bad taste in his or her mouth and a fever, and your child's jaw may swell.

Damage to the tooth, untreated tooth decay, or gum disease can cause an abscessed tooth.

An abscessed tooth needs to be treated by a dental professional right away. If it is not treated, the infection could spread to other parts of your child's body. A dentist will give your child antibiotics to stop the infection. He or she may make a hole in the tooth or cut open (lance) the abscess inside your child's mouth so that the infection can drain, which should relieve your child's pain. Your child may need to have a root canal treatment, which tries to save the tooth by taking out the infected pulp and replacing it with a healing medicine and/or a filling. If these treatments do not work, the dentist may have to remove the tooth.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Reduce pain and swelling in your child's face and jaw by putting ice or a cold pack on the outside of your child's cheek for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your child's skin.
  • Give pain medicines exactly as directed.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
  • Give your child antibiotics as directed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.

To prevent tooth abscess

  • Have your child brush and floss every day and get regular dental checkups.
  • Give your child a healthy diet, and avoid sugary foods and drinks.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child has trouble breathing.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child has worsening signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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