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So you know you have an abscess, and you’ve got an emergency dental appointment. But maybe the earliest you could get in is 24 hours from now — or longer than that. If so, you’ll need help coping with this issue until your dentist can provide a long-term solution.

If you think you have an abscess, Woo Young Lee, DDS, and the rest of the staff here at Grace Dental Group want you to know you should seek professional treatment as soon as possible. This will allow you to have the best chance of saving your tooth. But in the meantime, we’ve collected a list of ways you can manage the discomfort at home.

What an abscess is and how to treat it

An abscess happens when bacteria infect the pulp inside the tooth, leading to pus buildup. This highly painful, dangerous problem cannot be ignored without serious consequences.

Unfortunately, according to the National Library of Medicine, approximately, 27% of adults aged 20 to 64 have untreated tooth decay. The longer this problem goes untreated, the more likely you experience related issues in other parts of your body and even lose the tooth itself.

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When you are being treated for an abscess, your provider will be most focused on trying to heal the infection and save the tooth. Some teeth have been too fully compromised and cannot be saved, so you should seek treatment as early as possible. A root canal is usually the best treatment for an abscess.

Treating an abscess until your appointment

Again, we must remind you that these options are not treatments in the long term but ways to help you cope with an abscess until you can get proper, professional care. A whole study of medicine — called endodontics — is devoted to the pulp inside your tooth, so you can see why it’s so crucial you get the help you need.

While you’re at home, you’re likely to experience pain. Here are several ways to manage it until it’s time for your appointment.

1. Rinse with saltwater

This is a tried-and-true method for dealing with dental pain and for helping to encourage healing at the same time. It’s also easy and cheap, and you can do it as many as three times a day. Mix half a cup of water with half a teaspoon of table salt, and swish it around inside your mouth for up to two minutes before spitting it out.

2. Rinse with baking soda water

Another easy option is to rinse with half a teaspoon of baking soda mixed with half a cup of water. Baking soda can help kill some of the bacteria in your mouth and relieve some pain. You can do this at least two times a day.

3. Cold compresses

Cold compresses will help you deal with pain and swelling caused by your abscess. Simply hold the cold compress to your cheek for 15 minutes, then remove it for at least 15 minutes. You can do this several times a day; make sure you don’t leave it on your skin for longer than 15 minutes at a time.

4. Essential oils

Several essential oils can be used to treat dental pain, swelling, and bacterial infections in the short term. These are (in no particular order): oregano essential oil, clove essential oil, and thyme essential oil. Remember, you must dilute the oil before putting it anywhere on your body and especially in your mouth.

5. Hydrogen peroxide

It is safe to mix up to three percent hydrogen peroxide with a glass of water and use it as mouthwash, swishing it around in your mouth. This can help minimize bacterial growth, but you must not swallow any of the solution.

6. Take OTC medications

You may take acetaminophen or ibuprofen when needed to manage pain. We recommend staggering them. so you’re not taking either medication around the clock. Also, make sure you do not allow the medication to touch the abscess.

Get help for a dental abscess

Don’t wait to seek help for this incredibly painful and dangerous problem. You may need to have your tooth pulled, but if you’re quick to react, you could manage to save it.

Call us at (415) 921-8867 or make an appointment online for our San Francisco, CA office. We’re ready to help!

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