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Pus in Gums: What Causes It and How Can You Treat It?

Medically reviewed by Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc · Dentistry · Unihealth-Parañaque Hospital and Medical Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 14, 2021

Pus in Gums: What Causes It and How Can You Treat It?

Pus in gums, also known as dental abscess, is primarily caused by bacterial infection in the gums. Having a tooth abscess can cause severe pain, and can even lead to more serious complications if not treated immediately.

Pus in gums: Why Does it Happen?

Inside each of your teeth is what dentists refer to as the pulp. It is a collection of nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissues that are important to your tooth’s function.

These nerves in the pulp help you sense temperature and pressure and even pain if you have a cavity. The blood vessels serve to nourish the tooth and keeps it strong and healthy. While the connective tissues help keep your tooth attached to its socket.

However, if you have a crack, chip, or an untreated cavity, bacteria can get inside the pulp of the tooth. Once it’s there, it can cause an infection that leads to a dental abscess or the presence of pus in gums.

Another possible cause of pus in gums is if you have periodontitis or a severe type of gum infection. This causes your gums to pull away from your teeth, exposing them to bacteria which can cause infection.

Gingivitis and Bleeding Gums: What’s the Difference?

What are the Symptoms of Dental Abscess?

Here are some symptoms of dental abscess you need to watch out for:

  • Pain in the gums or tooth
  • Fever
  • Pain when biting
  • Swelling of the face or jaw
  • Severe throbbing headache that radiates to your jaw or neck
  • A red swollen “ball’ in your gums
  • Swollen gums

In case you experience any of these symptoms, it might be a sign that you have an infection in your tooth.

If left untreated, a dental abscess can lead to more serious complications, such as cellulitis. This is severe swelling in the face, causing the patient to be unable to open their eye. So it is very important to take steps to prevent an abscess from developing, as well as get treated as soon as possible if it happens to you.

The abscess can also rupture, causing you to have a foul-tasting and foul-smelling liquid in your mouth. This can provide some relief as the pus has already drained, but it is still important to seek treatment.

What are the Risk Factors for Pus in Gums?

Here are some things that can potentially increase your risk for having a dental abscess:

  • Not regularly brushing and flossing teeth
  • Leaving cavities untreated
  • Eating starchy or sugary foods that increase bacteria in the mouth
  • Having a weak immune system
  • Trauma to the tooth (eg. blunt force trauma)

All of these things can increase the risk of having a dental abscess, so it would be best to avoid these risk factors as much as possible.

How is Pus in Gums Treated?

If left untreated, a tooth abscess can cause your teeth to fall out, as well as further gum infection. More serious cases can cause the infection to spread to other parts of the body and lead to a life-threatening illness.

Having pus in gums is something that doesn’t go away on its own. The best way to deal with it would be to visit your dentist as soon as possible.

Your dentist might do the following in order to treat your condition:

  • Make an incision on your gums to drain the abscess
  • Pull out the infected tooth
  • Perform a root canal to prevent further damage
  • They might also prescribe antibiotics to help with the infection

If you are unable to go to the dentist immediately, there are some things that you can do in order to relieve some of the pain and swelling:

  • Gargle with warm (not hot) salty water
  • Use a cold pack on the side of your cheek for 10-20 minutes
  • Over-the-counter pain medication can help
  • Be very careful when brushing the swollen area

Vitamins for Gums: What You Need to Keep Gums Healthy

Key Takeaways

Remember, a tooth abscess should not be left untreated. The sooner you get treated, the better you will feel and it can significantly reduce the risk of complications.

Learn more about Gum Disease here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Grazielle Millo-Paderes, DDM, MSc

Dentistry · Unihealth-Parañaque Hospital and Medical Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Jun 14, 2021

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