Abscess Tooth When Pregnant: Causes, Symptoms & Prevention

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An abscess tooth refers to pus accumulation in a tooth due to bacterial infection. This condition requires medical attention to prevent the spread of infection. If you have an abscess tooth while pregnant, this post could help you. There are different causes of abscess teeth. However, it is possible to prevent them by taking precautionary measures. Read on to know more about this dental condition, its treatment plan, and tips to prevent it.

In This Article

About Tooth Abscess

An abscessed tooth or tooth abscess is the formation and collection of pus in different parts of a tooth due to bacterial infection. It can result in swollen gums, toothache or both (1). Susan Lim, a three-month pregnant woman, shares her ordeal with a dental abscess, “Three days ago my tooth started hurting so the pain got bad fast. Last night it was extremely bad, I cried myself to sleep. The doctor recommended to get either a root canal treatment done or my tooth extracted. I chose the former (i).”

Causes Of Tooth Abscess When Pregnant

An abscess tooth can occur due to many reasons (2):

  • Tooth decay

Mild to extensive tooth decay can lead to severe infection in the oral cavity. The infection may result in abscess formation in the damaged tooth.

  • Periodontal disease
Periodontal disease can cause abscess tooth while pregnant

Image: Shutterstock

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, about 60 to 75% of pregnant women experience an early stage of periodontal disease (gingivitis). When the condition is associated with severe trauma to the gums and food accumulation, it can lead to bacterial growth and cause inflammation and infections of the gums and the tissues supporting the teeth. This leads to pus in the surrounding tissues and results in an abscessed tooth.

  • Chipped or broken tooth

Cracks in the tooth enamel allow bacteria to infect the pulp. The infection in the pulpal tissue eventually leads to complete damage of the pulp and then to an abscessed tooth.

protip_icon Quick fact
Dry mouth and a weak immune system can increase the risk of tooth abscess (2).

Symptoms Of Tooth Abscess During Pregnancy

There are many symptoms of tooth abscess during pregnancy. Some common symptoms that you may experience include (1) (2).

  • Toothache
  • Headache, ear ache, jaw pain due to pain radiating from the infected tooth
  • Teeth sensitivity
  • Swollen gums, neck glands, and jaws
  • Fever

Dental Health And Pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body undergoes many hormonal changes. These changes can increase the risk of dental problems such as tooth decay and gum diseases. Therefore, maintaining dental health during pregnancy is important (3).

Some pregnancy complications that occur due to dental problems include:

  • High risk of preterm births.
  • High risk of health problems in preterm babies.
  • The spread of abscess to other parts of the body, which could cause severe health complications such as Ludwig’s angina.
  • High risk of early childhood tooth decay problems.
Abscess tooth while pregnant increases the risk of childhood tooth decay

Image: Shutterstock

protip_icon Research finds
Therapeutic interventions, such as fillings, root canal treatments, and crowns, are safe during pregnancy and can prevent long-term complications (3).

Tooth Abscess During Pregnancy

If you are pregnant and experience pain or discomfort in your teeth, consult your obstetrician/gynecologist and your dentist.

It is also important to tell your dentist about your pregnancy so that they won’t resort to X-rays during your pregnancy as radiation can harm the fetal development. Your pregnancy will also determine if you are an ideal candidate for a procedure that requires anesthesia and the type of medicines you can take for your treatment.

Preventing Tooth Abscess When Pregnant

By now, you know why it is important for women to prevent abscess tooth or dental problems during pregnancy. Here are some simple preventive measures to follow (4):

  • Brush and floss twice daily. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and consult your dentist to use the right toothpaste during your pregnancy.
  • If you are trying to get pregnant, go for periodical dental check-ups to ensure no or minimal problems during your term.
  • Vomiting during pregnancy can cause tooth decay due to the acidic nature of the vomit content. To avoid any dental problem due to vomiting during pregnancy, rinse your mouth after a vomiting or retching episode.
  • Avoid eating sugar-rich foods and rinse your mouth after you eat anything.
Avoid eating sugar-rich foods to prevent tooth abscess

Image: Shutterstock

  • Increase the amount of calcium in your diet.
  • Avoid over-the-counter pain relief medications and narcotics.
  • In case you experience mild tooth pain, do not neglect it and consult your primary doctor and your dentist immediately [3]

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can a tooth infection spread to my baby?

The causative agent of a tooth infection might spread to the baby when pregnant and after birth. This spread might make the baby vulnerable to teeth infections in the future (5).

2. Can a tooth abscess cause a miscarriage?

Uncontrolled infection of the gums has been linked to adverse pregnancy outcomes. These outcomes could either be because of the changes in the maternal immune system during an infection or the direct effect of the causative agent on the uterus. However, more studies are needed to identify the relationship between tooth abscess and miscarriage (6). Therefore, it is advised to maintain proper dental hygiene during pregnancy.

3. Can I take antibiotics for tooth abscesses while pregnant?

Antibiotics are one of the intervention strategies to treat tooth abscesses. Therefore, your dentist might prescribe you an antibiotics course to reduce the infection (7). However, a few antibiotics like streptomycin, tetracycline, and kanamycin are not safe for pregnant women (8). Hence, avoid self-prescription or administration of antibiotics during pregnancy and seek medical advice for any treatment.

4. What are the dangers of pulling an abscessed tooth during pregnancy?
According to Dr. Scott Cardall, orthodontist from Orem, Utah, “Tooth extraction, especially for an abscessed tooth, may carry some risks during pregnancy such as bleeding and infection, but generally, the risks of an untreated abscess are much greater than risks of treating an abscess. Ultimately, however, this decision should be made by your dentist and obstetrician.”

 

Abscess tooth while pregnant is a bacterial infection that requires immediate dental attention. Its most prominent cause is tooth decay or a chipped tooth. Some common symptoms are sensitivity, swollen gums, and foul smell. However, you can minimize your chances of any dental problems during pregnancy by maintaining good oral health and hygiene, particularly during your term. Try brushing twice a day and going for periodical dental health checkups. Following this routine will help address the risk factors for any further infection. Moreover, it is always better to maintain oral hygiene as it reduces the risk of health issues and keeps your mouth fresh.

Infographic: Preventive Measures For Tooth Abscess During Pregnancy

Tooth abscesses are a common dental problem that can occur during pregnancy. These painful infections can cause swelling, fever, and discomfort, and can even lead to severe issues if left untreated. Check out the infographic below for preventive measures expectant mothers should take to avoid tooth abscess.

how to avoid tooth abscess in pregnancy (infographic)

Illustration: Momjunction Design Team

Key Pointers

  • Chipped or broken teeth, tooth decay, dry mouth, and weak immune system can cause tooth abscess.
  • Tooth abscess is a bacterial infection that results in pus accumulation in the tooth.
  • Symptoms of tooth abscess include swollen gums, jaws, and neck glands, toothache, and headache.
  • To prevent tooth abscess, avoid sugar-rich foods, increase calcium intake, and seek regular dental check-ups.
  • Seek medical attention from your primary care physician and dentist if you have mild tooth pain.


Learn about what is an abcessed tooth, what causes and tips and treatment measures that can provide relief from it, in this informative video.

Personal Experience: Source

References

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
  1. Tooth abscess.
    https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001060.htm
  2. Abscessed Tooth.
    https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10943-abscessed-tooth
  3. Megan K. Kloetzal et al.; (2011); Referrals for Dental Care During Pregnancy.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3074205/
  4. Pregnancy and teeth.
    https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/pregnancy-and-teeth
  5. DENTAL HEALTH DURING PREGNANCY.
    https://www.marchofdimes.org/find-support/topics/pregnancy/dental-health-during-pregnancy
  6. Y.W. Han; (2011); Oral Health and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes – What’s Next?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3144105/
  7. Abscess (Toothache).
    https://www.mouthhealthy.org/all-topics-a-z/abscess/
  8. Errol R Norwitz and James A Greenberg; (2009); Antibiotics in Pregnancy: Are They Safe?
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2760892/
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Dr. Tazeen Raees holds a master’s degree in Prosthodontics and Implantology and is working as a chief prosthodontics mentor at APJ Abdul Kalam Education Centre, Indian Dental Association, Mumbai. She has over six years of experience.

Read full bio of Dr. Tazeen Raees
  • Dr. Scott Cardall
    Dr. Scott CardallDMD, MS Dr. Scott Cardall is an orthodontist based in Orem, Utah. He attended the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and did his Orthodontics residency program at Oregon Health & Science University.
    Dr. Scott Cardall is an orthodontist based in Orem, Utah. He attended the Harvard School of Dental Medicine and did his Orthodontics residency program at Oregon Health & Science University.
Shreeja holds a postgraduate degree in Chemistry and diploma in Drug Regulatory Affairs from the University of Mumbai. Before joining MomJunction, she worked as a research analyst with a leading multinational pharmaceutical company.

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Rebecca is a pregnancy writer and editor with a passion for delivering research-based and engaging content in areas of fertility, pregnancy, birth, and post-pregnancy. She did her graduation in Biotechnology and Genetics from Loyola Academy, Osmania University and obtained a certification in ‘Nutrition and Lifestyle in Pregnancy’ from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU).

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Dr. Joyani Das
Dr. Joyani DasM.Pharm, PhD
Dr. Joyani Das did her post-graduation from Birla Institute of Technology, Mesra and PhD in Pharmacology. Previously, she worked as an associate professor, faculty of Pharmacology, for two years. With her research background in preclinical studies and a zeal for scientific writing, she joined MomJunction as a health writer.

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