Dental Abscess vs. Dental Cyst – What’s the Difference?

While dental abscesses and dental cysts do share some similarities, the two oral health threats are not one and the same.

Here, the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah team explains the difference – and why you always pursue prompt professional treatment if you suspect you have a dental abscess or dental cyst.
Dental abscess vs. Dental cyst

What is a Dental Abscess?

A dental abscess is a pus-filled pocket within a tooth, in the gums or inside the jawbone. The cause is an acute bacterial infection.

Common symptoms of an abscess include:

  • Intense, throbbing pain that comes on suddenly and gradually worsens
  • Facial redness and swelling near the affected mouth area
  • Swollen, red and painful gums
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods and drinks
  • Bad breath, along with an unpleasant taste in the mouth

For some patients, the pain of a dental abscess spreads to affect the neck and ear. The pain may also be more severe when lying down.

What is a Dental Cyst?

A dental cyst is a closed sac filled with air or fluid that forms near a tooth or at the tip of a tooth’s roots. In most cases, cysts are associated with teeth that have died as a result of infection or trauma.

Dental cysts can grow for months or years without causing any symptoms. Many patients aren’t aware of a problem until it shows up on an x-ray. In some cases, however, a cyst may present with certain warning signs, such as:

  • Acute pain or pressure at the tooth or within the gums
  • Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
  • Ongoing sore throat or hoarseness

The Dangers in Ignoring Abscesses and Cysts

Professional treatment from an experienced oral surgeon is essential for every abscess and cyst. Without expert attention, both can cause additional oral health issues.

Ignore a dental abscess or dental cyst for too long, and you could face:

  • Problems with mouth function – As they grow, abscesses and cysts can push up against the teeth and their roots. The resulting pain and pressure can make biting and chewing more difficult.
  • Weakened jawbone – Abscesses are already infected, and cysts can develop an infection. Without treatment, the infection can spread to the surrounding bone and cause marked weakening.
  • Tooth loss – Root canal therapy can be effective early on, but as time goes on, the treatment may not be possible. In those cases, the teeth must be extracted.

Anytime you have an oral health problem, take quick action to prevent future complications. For prompt, expert treatment in the greater Salt Lake City area, call on the board-certified oral surgeons at Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah.

With offices in Cottonwood Heights, South Jordan and Tooele, the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah team offers convenient care – and we always strive to ensure patient comfort. If you think you have a dental abscess or dental cyst, or if you’re suffering from any other oral health issue, contact us and schedule an immediate appointment.