Dental abscess - Diagnosis 

Diagnosing a dental abscess 

If you think that you may have a dental abscess, you must 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. For example, 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 you about your symptoms.


Your dentist may refer you for treatment in hospital if you have a dental abscess and 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 (for example, because you are having treatment such as chemotherapy)

Page last reviewed: 12/03/2012

Next review due: 12/03/2014


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