Abscessed Tooth In Child: Causes, Symptoms, Care & Treatment

Written by Dr. Ritika Shah • 

If your child is complaining of mouth or jaw ache and is experiencing pain while chewing, then they might be suffering from a dental abscess.

An abscess is a pimple-like swelling that forms when pus accumulates in a part of the body infected by bacteria. A tooth abscess is an infection at the root of a tooth or between the tooth and the gum. The swelling can be very painful and sometimes unbearable for children. Your child’s dentist is the best person to identify and treat tooth abscess, as treating at an early stage prevents the infection from spreading to the gums and other teeth (1).

In this post, MomJunction will tell you the causes of an abscessed tooth and what you should do if your child is infected.

Causes Of Tooth Abscess In Children

A bacterial infection in the mouth is the primary reason for an abscess, a condition in which the tooth has one or more pockets of pus connected to it (2). The common causes of a tooth abscess in kids include:

  • Poor dental hygiene can cause tooth decay, which could be the primary cause for a tooth abscess in children.
  • Having food that contains sugar or starch can encourage bacterial growth in the mouth, which might lead to a tooth abscess.
  • Trauma to the tooth due to an injury or fall that results in a broken or chipped tooth. It can create some extra space in the region, giving room for the bacteria to accumulate (1).

Signs And Symptoms Of Dental Abscess

The most visible symptom of an abscess is a red swelling inside the mouth, near a tooth or two. Look for the following signs in your kid to know if it is tooth abscess.

  • Red pimple-like formation near the tooth
  • The tooth may turn to a dark color
  • Secretion of pus from the abscess
  • Severe pain when chewing
  • Unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Swelling of gums and cheeks, and firmness of the cheek
  • High temperature (2)

The region around the abscess becomes very sensitive, causing severe pain when it comes in contact with a foreign object (food particles).

Preventive Care For Tooth And Gum Abscess In Children

With a few tips, you can help your children maintain healthy teeth. These preventive measures ensure proper dental hygiene and may reduce the risk of teeth or gum abscesses in children.

  • The key to preventing dental or gum-related problems is to maintain proper oral hygiene. Ensure that your kids brush their teeth at least twice and floss once every day.
  • Cut down the amount of sugary foods like sweets, chocolates, and sodas that your child consumes.
  • Get your children to use toothpaste with fluoride at least once a day. But before that, check with your dentist.
  • Address any trauma to the teeth, like damage or chipping, immediately by visiting a dentist.
  • Take them to the dentist regularly.

In painful conditions like tooth abscess in children, prevention is any day better than cure.

Home Remedies To Help Relieve Tooth Abscess Pain

While there aren’t any home remedies to treat tooth abscess, there are a few things you can do to relieve your child of the pain caused by the condition. Please note that there is little scientific evidence to prove the effectiveness of these remedies. Also, these should not be used to suppress the pain, without getting proper treatment as there is a chance of the infection spreading.

Here is what you can try to alleviate the pain caused by a tooth abscess.

  • It is believed that placing an ice pack on the area for 12 to 20 minutes could help in reducing the pain.
  • In ancient Chinese and Indian medicine, it is believed that garlic might help in relieving toothache (3). If your child does not want to chew garlic, crush it, and apply the juice on the infected area.
  • Turmeric contains curcumin, which is believed to have anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties so. This might help in relieving dental pain (4)
  • Rinsing the mouth with warm salt water can also prevent the infection from spreading (5).
  • In traditional Taiwanese medicine, sesame oil is used to relieve toothache as it is believed to have anti-inflammatory action, again some children could be allergic to this oil, so consult your dentist before applying (6).
  • Apple cider vinegar is said to have an antimicrobial property (7), so mixing a spoonful of apple cider vinegar to a glass of warm water and rinsing the mouth might help. Make sure your kid does not swallow the liquid.
  • Olive oil may also have properties that help in relieving dental pain due to the abscess. However, there isn’t enough scientific research to back this, so check with your doctor before trying it.

These remedies should only be used as a temporary relief from the pain caused by a tooth abscess. These should not be used as a replacement for medication and dental treatments, as delaying treatment can make the infection spread to other parts of the mouth.

Diagnosis Of Tooth Abscess

Dental abscesses could be serious if not treated immediately after diagnosis. If you find any of the signs mentioned above in your child, take them to a dentist immediately.
Dentists usually do the following to detect tooth abscess in children:

  • Tapping on the teeth, gently, to see how sensitive it is.
  • Checking the swelling, redness, and examination of the cervical lymph nodes.
  • Intra oral radiographs could be used to estimated marginal bone loss, if any.
  • Samples of pus from the abscess are also taken and sent for laboratory examination (8).

Treating An Abscessed Tooth In Child

The treatment for an abscess in a child’s mouth depends on the severity of the condition and the region it has formed.

  • In case the abscess is in the initial stages, the dentist may drain the pus out by making an incision in the abscess and cleaning it with saline or saltwater.
  • If the tooth is completely damaged, the dentist may pull it out to prevent the infection from spreading.
  • In some cases, the consultant may perform a root canal to treat the infected tooth and save it from being completely damaged.
  • In addition to the procedures mentioned above, dentists may also prescribe antibiotics if the infection has spread to other parts or is severe (9).
  • Your child’s dentist might also choose to prescribe certain antibiotics before and after the surgery to reduce the infection.

Post-treatment Care For Tooth And Gum Abscess In Children

Here are a few things you should keep in mind to help your child recover from it soon.

  • Ensure that any prescribed medications are taken on time and without fail.
  • Do not miss or change dentist appointments, as the treatment may follow a specific course and any deviation may affect the time taken for recovery.
  • If no medication is prescribed, check with the doctor if you can give the child an over-the-counter medication.

Medical treatment for dental abscesses works when parents follow it up with proper care at home.

Frequently Asked Questions About Tooth Abscess

1. My child has an abscessed tooth. What should I do?

If your child is experiencing symptoms that indicate an abscess of the tooth or the gums, take him to a dentist immediately. A tooth abscess cannot be treated with home remedies and can get worse if proper medical treatment is not given early on.

2. What is a dentoalveolar abscess in children?

A dentoalveolar abscess is another name for a tooth abscess (2).

3. What is a periodontal abscess in children?

A periodontal abscess is a type of dental abscess within the periodontium, which is a specialized tissue that supports the tooth (8).

4. What is a gingival abscess in children?

A gingival abscess is a type of an oral abscess that affects only the gum tissue, without causing any damage to the tooth or the periodontium (8).

5. What does an abscessed tooth look like?

An abscessed tooth may be darker in color when compared to the other teeth around it. A tooth abscess is pink and swollen like a pimple.

Unlike other medical conditions and infections that are outwardly visible, dental or tooth abscess is not. Therefore, it is important to be observant for any possible swelling and check the kid’s mouth for signs of an abscess and address it immediately.

Share your thoughts and experiences, if any, about tooth abscesses through the comments section below.


1. Dental abscess; National Health Service
2. Shweta and S Krishna Prakash; Dental abscess: A microbiological review; NCBI(2013)
3. Tooth abscess; MedlinePlus; US National Library of Medicine
4. Leyla Bayan, Peir Hossain Koulivand, and Ali Gorji; Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects; NCBI(2014)
5. A. Kumarswamy; Multimodal management of dental pain with focus on alternative medicine: A novel herbal dental gel; NCBI(2016)
6. Dental Emergencies; Indian Dental Association
7. Marzieh Beigom Bigdeli Shamloo. Et al.; The Effects of Topical Sesame (Sesamum indicum) Oil on Pain Severity and Amount of Received Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs in Patients With Upper or Lower Extremities Trauma; NCBI(2015)
8. Vesna Kalaba, et al.; Antibacterial Activity of Domestic Apple Cider Vinegar; AGROFOR International Journal
9. Samuel Zwetchkenbaum and L S Taichman; Oral Health; Clinical Men’s Health (2008)
10. Punit Vaibhav Patel, Sheela Kumar G., and Amrita Patel; Periodontal Abscess: A Review; Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research

Recommended Articles:

Was this article helpful?

    Latest Articles