Abscessed Tooth in Children: Care Instructions

Abscessed Tooth in Children: Care Instructions

March 31, 2020 / in / by Fort Worth Children's Dentistry
child tooth pain

A tooth abscess, or a dental abscess, is a collection of pus that can form inside the teeth, gum or jawbone and is caused by a bacterial infection. Sadly, abscessed teeth don’t only affect adults. Children are just as likely to experience a dental abscess at some point during their early years.  

Abscesses have slightly different names depending on where they are located. If you have a periapical abscess, it is at the end of a tooth. However, a periodontal abscess refers to one within the gum. Neither type will heal on their own, and so it is important that treatment isn’t delayed and see your dentist right away. Failure to do so could cause an infection that spreads beyond the area, which could lead to more serious problems.

How do I know if my child has an abscessed tooth?

If your child has an abscess, chances are that they will exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Intense pain in the affected tooth or area of gum. This may come on quickly and get gradually worse. 

  • The pain may spread to their ear, jaw and neck on the affected side. 

  • The discomfort may get worse when laying down, they may have to lay on a specific side or it may interrupt their sleep. 

  • Their face may appear red, swollen and be tender if you touch it. 

  • Their gum may look red, shiny and swollen.

  • They may have bad breath or a foul taste in their mouth. 

  • Eating or drinking may become painful. 

  • A loose tooth. 


In some instances, the infection may spread, causing a high temperature and general feeling of illness.

Caring for a child with a dental abscess

Although you will need to make an appointment with your dentist so that your child can obtain professional treatment for their abscess, there are things that you can do to help them in the meantime. These include the following:

Provide pain relief

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) are the preferred painkiller for dental abscesses since they also help to reduce associated swelling. Ensure that you provide the correct dose based on the age of your child. However, paracetamol-based painkillers can be as effective and in the case of serious pain, may be alternated with NSAIDS to provide stronger relief. Always consult with your doctor or dentist if you are unsure which pain medications can be given. 

Avoid hot/cold foods

Your child’s mouth is likely to be very sensitive and so, if they can tolerate any food or drink, you should avoid giving them anything too hot or cold as it could make their discomfort worse. 

Gentle cleaning

Your child will still need to clean their teeth, but this can also be painful. We recommend that you get them to use a soft toothbrush to minimize discomfort and avoid flossing until they have been treated. 

Professional treatments for abscessed teeth

When you take your child for their appointment, your dentist may recommend one of several different courses of action. The treatment your child is offered will depend on the location of the abscess and the severity of the infection, but may involve:


This technique involves an incision being made into the gum to drain the abscess, which in some instances, may resolve the issue. However, sometimes this is only a temporary measure until a more permanent solution can be scheduled. 

Root canal therapy

This is where an invasive dental treatment removes the abscess from the root of the tooth, before filling and sealing it so that infection cannot recur. 


If the infection has started to spread and the tooth is severely affected/dying, then extraction may be the best course of action. 

Your child will be given suitable anesthetic and/or sedation to ensure that they remain calm and comfortable throughout the procedure. 

If you are concerned that your child may have an abscessed tooth, don’t delay in seeking treatment. Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with our experienced pediatric dental team.