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Dental Abscess With Facial Cellulitis

A dental abscess is an infection at the base of a tooth. When this is untreated, it spreads to the gum near the tooth causing swelling and pain. More severe infections cause facial swelling as the bacteria spread to the nearby tissues of the face. This is a very serious condition. Once the swelling begins, it can spread rapidly.

A dental abscess usually starts with a crack or cavity in the tooth. The pain is often made worse by drinking hot or cold fluids, or biting on hard foods and may spread from the tooth to the ear or jaw on the same side.

Home Care:

  • Avoid hot and cold foods and liquids since your tooth may be sensitive to temperature changes.

  • If your tooth is chipped or cracked, or if there is a large open cavity, apply oil of cloves or oil of peppermint (available over-the-counter in drug stores) directly to the tooth to reduce pain. Some pharmacies carry an over-the-counter “toothache kit.” This contains a paste, which can be applied over the exposed tooth to decrease sensitivity.

  • A cold pack on your jaw over the sore area may help reduce pain.

  • You may use acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) to control pain, unless another medicine was prescribed. [NOTE: If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or GI bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines.]

  • An antibiotic will be prescribed. Take it exactly as directed. Do not miss any doses.


as advised with a dentist or oral surgeon. Severe cases of cellulitis must be checked again within 24 hours. Once an infection occurs in a tooth, it will continue to be a problem until the infection is drained (surgery or root canal) or the tooth is pulled.

Get Prompt Medical Attention

if any of the following occur:

  • Swelling spreads to the upper half of your face or your eyelids begin to swell shut

  • Pain worsens or spreads to the neck

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Unusual drowsiness, headache or a stiff neck; weakness or fainting

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing