Entry of Contaminants
In the initial stages of tooth decay, a patient may only notice small cracks or cavities in the tooth. These visual clues to tooth decay belie the seriousness of the health problem, however, as the small cracks in the tooth’s protective enamel allow corrosive agents like salt, bacteria and even saliva to access and eat away at the tooth’s softer pulp. As these contaminates eat away at the pulp, the noticeable cracks and cavities in the tooth become larger and more pronounced, and the cycle accelerates. This process tends to be relatively painless for the patient, and may progress at such a slow rate that the individual fails to notice the increasing severity. Eventually, the decay attacks the sensitive pulp inside the tooth’s root, where it reaches far down into the gum and begins to set up an abscess.
As the tooth decay and contaminates eat away at the toot’s root and reach into the gum, most patients still do not experience much (if any) discomfort. The corrosive contaminates clear a path into the soft tissue surrounding the tooth’s root, and the large crack or cavity on the tooth’s surface allows even more contaminates to sift down into the tooth, root and soft tissue. When these contaminates traverse the tooth’s roots and arrive in the soft tissue surrounding them, the body’s natural defenses send white blood cells to attack the contaminates as if they were an invading virus or bacteria.
As the white blood cells attack, pus forms and begins to enlarge the soft tissue, sometimes pressing against other tissue and even raising the tooth above the other teeth surrounding it. When a tooth abscess forms, it typically becomes quite painful for patients and they may seek treatment from a dentist or endodontist; if they do not seek treatment, the abscess may progress to a more serious condition.
Abscesses Can Dissolve Bone and Tissue
If a patient with an advanced abscess does not seek treatment, the bacterial infection may spread to nearby bone and tissue. In extreme cases, the infection may begin to attack surrounding bone and even dissolve surrounding teeth and jaw bones.
In some cases, an abscess may rupture and spread into surrounding soft tissue, expanding the abscess and increasing the patient’s pain. According to the FAQs.org entry on abscesses, a ruptured abscess may spill into the bloodstream, spreading dead white blood cells, pus, and infectious bacteria into the blood supply and throughout the body. This blood poisoning, formally known as septicemia, can result in excruciating pain throughout the body, severe illness and even death.