Periapical abscess

(Redirected from Periapical abcess)


Maxillary right second premolar after extraction. The two single-headed arrows point to line separating the crown (in this case, heavily decayed) and the roots. The double headed arrow (bottom right) shows the extent of the abscess that surrounds the apex of the palatal root.
  • Associated with dental caries or nonviable teeth
  • Significant erosion of the pulp with bacterial overgrowth

Clinical Features

Abscess originating from a tooth that has spread to the buccal space. Above: deformation of the cheek on the second day. Below: deformation on the third day.
A decayed, broken down tooth, which has undergone pulpal necrosis. A periapical abscess (i.e. around the apex of the tooth root) has then formed and pus is draining into the mouth via an intraoral sinus (gumboil)
  • Acute pain, swelling, and mild tooth elevation
  • Exquisite sensitivity to percussion or chewing on the involved tooth
  • Swelling in surrounding gingiva, buccal, lingual or palatal regions
  • May see small white pustule (parulis) in gingival surface characteristic for abscesses

Differential Diagnosis

Dentoalveolar Injuries

Odontogenic Infections



CT scan showing a large left tooth abscess with significant inflammation of fatty tissue under the skin.
  • Clinical evaluation
  • Radiographs


  • Analgesia with NSAIDs, opioids and/or local anesthetics
  • Dental follow-up within 48 hrs.
  • Emergent oral surgeon follow-up if complicated (Ludwig's angina, Lemierre's syndrome)


Treatment is broad and focused on polymicrobial infection


  • Can be performed in ED depending on provider comfort or by a dental consultant


  • 11 or 12 blade stab incision
  • Hemostat blunt dissection +/- packing

See Also


  • ER Atlas