Balwyn Dental Practice
A Better Life Starts with a Beautiful Smile
book your appointment
Have You Seen Our Welcome Package Yet?
Experience the difference at Balwyn Dental Practice.
Previous slide
Next slide

Have you ever wondered how dentists take care of those painful abscesses in your mouth? In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of dental care and learn about the methods dentists use to drain abscesses. Get ready to discover the tools, techniques, and expertise behind treating these troublesome and uncomfortable dental issues. So, sit back, relax, and let’s delve into the world of dentistry!


Welcome to this comprehensive article on how dentists drain abscesses. If you’ve been experiencing tooth pain or discomfort, it’s important to understand what an abscess is, its causes, and the different types that exist. We will also delve into the signs and symptoms to help you recognize when it’s time to consult a dentist. Once a diagnosis is made, we’ll explore the different methods used by dentists to drain abscesses, including the use of local anesthesia and creating incisions. Finally, we’ll discuss the importance of proper suturing and dressing to aid in the healing process. By the end of this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how dentists tackle abscesses and why early intervention is crucial.

Understanding Abscesses

What is an abscess?

An abscess is a collection of pus that forms due to an infection. In the dental context, it typically occurs at the root of a tooth or in the surrounding gum tissue. The pus is a result of the body’s immune response to the infection, and it can cause swelling, pain, and the buildup of pressure. These painful accumulations of pus need to be drained by a dentist to prevent further complications and to alleviate discomfort.

Causes of abscesses

Abscesses can stem from various causes, with the most common being tooth decay and gum disease. When plaque and bacteria accumulate in the mouth, they can lead to tooth decay and the formation of cavities. If left untreated, the decay can progress and infect the pulp of the tooth, which can result in an abscess. Gum disease, characterized by inflammation and infection of the gums, can also lead to the development of abscesses. Other causes include trauma to the mouth or a compromised immune system.

Types of abscesses

There are two primary types of abscesses that dentists commonly encounter: periapical abscesses and periodontal abscesses. Periapical abscesses occur when bacteria invade the innermost part of the tooth, also known as the pulp. This type of abscess often arises as a complication of untreated tooth decay. On the other hand, periodontal abscesses form in the gums or the bone supporting the teeth. They are usually a result of advanced gum disease, where the infection extends beyond the surface of the gums.

Signs and Symptoms

Physical signs

When an abscess develops, there are often physical signs that can alert you to its presence. One common sign is swelling in the affected area, which can lead to visible facial or gum swelling. Additionally, the area around the abscess may appear red or have a shiny appearance. In some cases, a small bump or pimple-like structure called a fistula can be observed on the gum near the abscess, acting as a natural drainage pathway for pus. Keep a lookout for these physical signs, as they can be indicative of an abscess requiring attention from a dentist.

Pain and discomfort

Pain is a significant symptom associated with abscesses. It can range from a mild ache to a severe, throbbing pain that disrupts your daily activities. The intensity of the pain can also vary based on individual pain tolerance and the severity of the abscess. Discomfort is not solely limited to the affected tooth or gum area; it can radiate to nearby areas of the face, jaw, or neck. If you experience persistent or worsening pain, it’s essential to seek professional dental care to assess and address the underlying cause.

Other symptoms

In addition to physical signs and pain, other symptoms may accompany an abscess. You may notice an unpleasant taste in your mouth or a persistent bad breath that does not improve with regular oral hygiene practices. Some individuals may also develop a fever as their body tries to fight off the infection. If you experience any of these symptoms along with tooth pain or facial swelling, it’s crucial to consult a dentist promptly for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Diagnosing an Abscess

Visual examination

When you visit a dentist suspecting an abscess, they will begin by conducting a visual examination of your oral cavity. They will look for any visible signs of swelling, redness, or other abnormalities in the affected area. The dentist may also gently touch the area to assess tenderness or any drainage present. The visual examination allows the dentist to gather crucial information to determine the next course of action.

X-rays and imaging

To get a more detailed view of the affected area, the dentist may request X-rays or other imaging techniques like a dental CT scan. These diagnostic tools help in identifying the location and extent of the abscess, as well as any underlying dental issues that may contribute to its development. X-rays can reveal any bone loss or tooth decay that may be causing or aggravating the abscess. The information obtained from these images aids the dentist in formulating an appropriate treatment plan.

Other diagnostic tests

In some cases, the dentist may want to perform additional diagnostic tests to gather more information about the abscess. This may involve taking a sample of the pus for lab analysis to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection. Understanding the type of bacteria present can help in selecting the most effective antibiotic treatment if required. Your dentist may also evaluate your overall oral health to check for any underlying conditions that could contribute to the development of abscesses.

Drainage Procedure Overview


Before performing the drainage procedure, the dentist will ensure that necessary preparations are made. This typically involves gathering the appropriate equipment, such as a syringe, scalpel, and sterile gloves. The dental team will ensure that the treatment area is clean and properly set up for the procedure. They may also provide you with instructions on what to expect during and after the drainage procedure, as well as any precautions you should be aware of.

Administering anesthesia

To minimize any discomfort or pain during the drainage procedure, the dentist will administer local anesthesia. Local anesthesia numbs the area around the abscess, ensuring a pain-free experience. The dentist may use a topical gel or apply an injectable anesthetic to the area. The choice of anesthesia depends on factors such as the patient’s preference and the location and severity of the abscess.

Local Anesthesia

Types of local anesthesia used

Dentists typically use two main types of local anesthesia to numb the area before draining an abscess: topical anesthesia and injectable anesthesia. Topical anesthesia is usually in the form of a gel or spray applied directly to the gum. It numbs the surface tissue and helps reduce any pain related to the needle used for administering injectable anesthesia. Injectable anesthesia is the primary method to achieve profound numbing of the affected area. It is commonly referred to as a local dental injection.

Administering local anesthesia

The dentist will carefully administer the chosen local anesthesia to ensure effective numbing of the abscessed area. They will use a thin needle to inject the anesthetic solution into the gum tissue near the abscess. You may feel a slight pinch or pressure during the injection, but the local anesthesia will rapidly take effect, leaving you numb and comfortable for the remainder of the procedure.

Safety and precautions

It’s important to note that the local anesthesia used during a drainage procedure is considered safe when administered by a licensed and experienced dental professional. However, as with any medical procedure, there are potential risks and precautions to be aware of. Your dentist will ask about any allergies, medical conditions, or medications that may affect the administration of anesthesia. If you have concerns or questions, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your dentist beforehand.

Creating an Incision

Location and size of the incision

Once the area is adequately numbed, the dentist will determine the appropriate location and size of the incision. The goal is to create an opening that allows for effective drainage of the abscess without causing unnecessary damage to surrounding tissues. The specific location and size of the incision will depend on factors such as the abscess’s location and severity, as well as the dentist’s professional judgment.

Sterilization and hygiene

Before making the incision, the dentist will sterilize the area to minimize the risk of introducing additional bacteria. They will use antiseptic solutions and sterile instruments to ensure a clean treatment environment. Proper hygiene protocols are crucial to prevent the spread of infection and promote healing after the drainage procedure.

Using specialized tools

The dentist will use specialized tools, such as a scalpel, to make the incision. These tools are designed to create a precise and controlled opening that allows the dentist to access and drain the abscess effectively. The dental team will carefully handle the instruments to ensure a safe and efficient procedure. The tools used will be sterile and disposed of following medical waste protocols.

Draining the Abscess

Techniques for draining

Once the incision is made, the dentist will employ various techniques to drain the abscess fully. They may use gentle pressure to encourage the pus to exit the wound or employ suction to remove the accumulated pus and debris. The choice of technique depends on the nature of the abscess and the dentist’s judgment on what will yield the best results.

Removing pus and debris

During the drainage procedure, the dentist will carefully remove the pus and any debris present in the abscess. This step is crucial to eliminate the source of infection and promote healing. By removing the pus, the pressure and pain associated with the abscess are alleviated, providing immediate relief for the patient.

Rinsing and cleaning the area

After the pus and debris are removed, the dentist will thoroughly rinse and clean the abscessed area. This helps to ensure that any remaining bacteria or contaminants are cleared out, reducing the risk of reinfection. The cleansing process may involve using a gentle saline solution or an antiseptic mouthwash to disinfect the area effectively.

Suturing and Dressing

Closing the incision

In some cases, after the abscess has been drained, the dentist may choose to close the incision with sutures. This is done to facilitate proper healing and prevent any external debris from entering the wound. The sutures are typically made of a dissolvable material, eliminating the need for removal in the future. Closure of the incision is done meticulously to minimize scarring and promote optimal healing.

Importance of proper suturing

Proper suturing is fundamental to the success of the drainage procedure. The dentist will ensure that the sutures are appropriately placed, providing adequate support and a secure closure. Additionally, they will consider factors such as the location of the incision and the patient’s oral hygiene practices to determine the appropriate suture technique. Your dentist will guide you on caring for the sutures and any signs of infection to watch out for during the healing process.

Placement of dressings

To assist in the healing process and protect the incision, the dentist may place a dressing over the drainage site. This dressing helps to absorb any remaining fluids and provides a barrier against external contaminants. Depending on the specific case, the dressing may need to be changed periodically as part of the follow-up care. Your dentist will provide instructions on how to care for the dressing, ensuring that the area remains clean and protected.

Draining Abscesses
Image by prostooleh on Freepik


In conclusion, draining abscesses is a critical dental procedure that helps alleviate pain, neutralize infection, and promote healing. Dentists employ various methods such as local anesthesia, creating an incision, draining the abscess, and proper suturing and dressing to ensure successful outcomes. If you experience any signs or symptoms of an abscess, it’s crucial to seek professional dental care promptly. Regular dental check-ups and practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent abscesses and other dental issues. Remember, your dentist is your partner in maintaining your oral health and well-being.


Explore our dental services at Balwyn Dental Practice.

“Make the most of your time and schedule an appointment now.”