Diagnosing a dental abscess 

If you think you may have a dental abscess, see a dentist as soon as possible.

Find a dentist in your local area.

Your dentist will carry out some tests to determine whether your symptoms are being caused by a dental abscess. They may:

  • tap on the affected tooth or area of gum – if infection is present, your tooth or gum will be sensitive to any pressure
  • examine your gums – an infection will usually cause an area of your gums to become red and swollen
  • take an X-ray of the affected area to help assess the spread of infection

In some cases, your dentist may be able to confirm a diagnosis by simply asking about your symptoms.

Your dentist will then discuss the most appropriate treatment.


Depending on how severe your abscess is, you may be referred for treatment in hospital.

This may happen if you:

  • are feeling unwell with a high temperature, a rapid pulse rate or low blood pressure (hypotension) and rapid breathing
  • are in severe pain, despite taking painkillers
  • have a spreading facial infection
  • have a weakened immune system (this could happen if you are having treatment, such as chemotherapy)

Page last reviewed: 14/05/2014

Next review due: 14/05/2016