Common symptoms of an abscess are pain and swelling. A dental abscess is frequently very painful and occasionally can spread deeply into the body creating a very serious health condition that requires advanced medical care and possibly hospitalization.
Common causes for an abscess in the mouth include tooth decay that reaches the pulp of the tooth causing it to die, large fillings that were near the pulp, multiple fillings in a tooth over a period of time, fractures of a tooth, and gum disease. Because each of these causes is associated with a tooth, extraction of the tooth will usually cure the infection. However, most of the time it is better to try to save a natural tooth by treating the cause of the abscess. When the cause is tooth decay or a filling, root canal treatment is the appropriate choice of care. When the cause is gum disease, periodontal treatment is the appropriate choice. When the cause is a fractured tooth a combination of therapies may be required.
These are general rules but there are frequently other factors that may lead your dentist to provide different advice. Sometimes the problem may be so extensive or the tooth so difficult to repair, that extraction and replacement with an implant, bridge or denture may be the best choice. Talk to your dentist about all treatment options.