How to drain a gum abscess

gum abscess

What is a gum abscess?

A gum abscess is a dental emergency. It is the consequence of a persistent and untreated infection. Its location on the gum is different, but the process is the same: some virulent bacteria will trigger reactions in the tooth or the surrounding tissues. The products of these reactions (dead cells, inflammatory mediators, bacterial products) will form what is called pus. The pus will be collected in an area leading to an abscess.
Depending on the cause, the abscess can be gingival, periodontal, or periapical.

Why do you need to drain a gum abscess?

A gum abscess never heals on its own and can lead to serious infections that can reach other parts of the body beyond the mouth through the bloodstream. Pus contains bacteria and toxins that can not only destroy your jawbones and teeth but also affect other vital organs such as the heart and brain. So, this is why the abscess must be treated by a specialist: a dental surgeon or a stomatologist.

When should the abscess be drained?

If the infection has resulted in an abscess, drainage is necessary.
Many signs show that you have an abscess and therefore need drainage. The ones that you should be aware of are:

  • Pain on pressure or when eating in the affected tooth;
  • An unpleasant taste in the mouth;
  • Tooth pain may become throbbing (it beats like a heart);
  • It can spread to the gum or part of the jaw;
  • Fatigue;
  • Edema on the side of the infected tooth;
  • Sometimes, you may have difficulty chewing or opening your mouth.

If you have a fever between 38 ° C and 39 °C, and a red, swollen area on the cheek on the affected side, you should see a dentist quickly or go to the emergency room.

How is the abscess drained?

Drainage involves removing pus that has accumulated in an affected area. The procedure depends on the cause and type of gum abscess.

For a periapical abscess


The periapical abscess is a collection of pus under the root of the infected tooth. The periapical abscess means that the tooth is no longer alive and therefore requires a root canal treatment. Your dentist will drain the abscess by piercing the crown of the tooth under local anesthesia. Once done, pus will come out from the tooth.
After drainage, the tooth is cleaned and shaped to remove the infected tissue. Then, a root filling is placed with a dental to prevent a new infection.
Antibiotics could be prescribed if the infection has started to spread

For a periodontal abscess


The periodontal abscess is the consequence of untreated periodontitis. The pus will collect between the root and the gum tissue, causing visible swelling.
Scaling and root planing must be done under local anesthesia to clean the space between the tooth and the gum. If the abscess is large, your dentist will peel the gum off the tooth, then drain and clean the root surface, and try to put the gum back in place if the pocket is not too deep. If the infection is severe, tooth extraction may be necessary. Your dentist may also prescribe a mouthwash to eliminate persistent bacteria.

For cellulitis


Cellulitis is a complication of tooth abscess. The spread of the infection to soft tissues such as the cheek, skin, muscles will lead to what is called cellulitis.
Cellulitis must be drained if it has reached the suppurative stage where there is an accumulation of pus. At this stage, the abscess is limited, warm, red, and shiny. Your dentist will cut the tumefaction and drain the accumulated pus. Then, he will either extract the infected tooth or keep it by proceeding with a root canal treatment. Antibiotics will be prescribed to prevent the spread of infection.

What you can do while waiting for an appointment

Before seeing your dentist, you can try some natural remedies to relieve pain:
  • Chew on a clove, both soothing and disinfectant;
  • Make a mouthwash with baking soda: 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water;
  • Put an ice pack in contact with your cheek, where it hurts, for about ten minutes.


  • Try pain relievers

    A pain reliever such as paracetamol may help temporarily relieve the pain. However, avoid ibuprofen and other anti-inflammatory drugs, which can worsen the symptoms of your gum abscess.

    Is it possible to drain the abscess at home?

    The abscess can never be drained at home. You can't because the abscess appeared inside the gum. Often we don't see it. We just feel the pain.
    Making the abscess disappear is the dentist's job. He will probably do an X-ray of the tooth before starting treatment.
    Under local anesthesia, root canal treatment may be enough to deflate the gum abscess. In some cases, it will be necessary to remove the affected tooth and replace it with a bridge.

    The complication of an undrained gum abscess

    Left untreated, the abscess progresses to "fistulization" (A connection is made between the abscess that is inside the gum and the mouth to evacuate the pus). It temporarily relieves pain and swelling, but the infection can lead to serious complications by spreading to other parts of the body.
    Bacteria can reach the tongue, throat, face (and cause "facial cellulitis"), or the maxillary sinuses (which are located just under the eye) and lead to sinusitis.
    The bacteria can reach the blood vessels or the lymphatics and cause a new infection away from the tooth abscess: it is possible to see infections of the heart (endocarditis), the lungs, the kidneys, a joint.
    Finally, an untreated tooth abscess can be the cause of sepsis (general infection).

    What to expect after drainage?

    With treatment, the pain quickly goes away, then the infection subsides and heals. Most of the time, the tooth can be saved by a root canal treatment. Extraction is only essential in cases of serious infections.