An abscess in the jaw is a collection of pus in the cavities of the jawbone. A jaw abscess is characterized by a painful, pus-filled, heated, pressure-sensitive swelling in the upper or lower jaw. If the upper jaw is affected, there may also be swelling of the eyes. A lower jaw abscess can make swallowing difficult. An abscess in the jaw can be distinguished from an edema or a pasty swelling, an infiltrate. These usually show up as a preliminary stage of an abscess.


Abscesses in the jaw are caused by inflammation. In particular, immunocompromised people or people with previous illnesses have a higher risk of inflammation and the resulting jaw abscesses. The inflammation can be caused by a gingival pocket, an inflamed tooth bed, a dead tooth, a wisdom tooth that has not yet erupted, or a tooth cyst. In the mouth area, it is mostly bacterial infections that lead to an abscess.

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Read more on the topic: Abscess on the tooth

In the case of a dead tooth, the protein releases toxins. These provide a breeding ground for bacteria. The entry of bacteria is facilitated by dental caries. This can set inflammatory processes in motion. Eventually, the pulp can die. An undersupply of blood in the area leads to the breakdown and breakdown of cells. As a result, a foul smelling gangrene and a "fat cheek" can develop. In dentistry, gangrene is defined as necrosis of the dental pulp. This means that cell death occurs in the area that was caused by an infection. The pulp is the part of the tooth that supplies the tooth with nerves. It is therefore sometimes incorrectly referred to as the dental nerve. Since in this area there are not only connective tissue with blood and lymph vessels but also nerve fibers, these transmit thermal, mechanical or chemical stimuli as pain stimuli. When the pulp has died, these protective signals are no longer transmitted and the development of a jaw abscess is favored. If the tip of the tooth root is inflamed, this leads to increased activities of the body's own defense cells. The jawbone can break down. These processes can create a cavity. Bacteria can accumulate more often. This will fill the cavity with pus. The result is an abscess in the jaw.

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Read more on the subject at: Pus in the jaw


If there are signs of a jaw abscess developing, a dentist should be seen. He first conducts a survey, a so-called anamnesis. It makes sense to think about what information should be communicated before you visit the dentist. Previous illnesses and medication should always be mentioned.

The dentist will examine the inside and outside of the mouth. With an advanced abscess, swelling of the cheek is usually evident. A central yellowish-greenish area can be seen in a mature jaw abscess. A moving liquid can often be felt. When touched, pus usually comes out. A smear is taken from this to find out the pathogen. To make a reliable diagnosis, an x-ray of the jaw is usually taken. If you have a weakened immune system and / or other previous illnesses, blood tests and further diagnostics may be necessary.


In the early stages of an abscess, the person affected is usually symptom-free. When the pus accumulation has reached a certain level, it breaks through into the neighboring tissue. There the pus empties. At this stage, the person may notice a swollen cheek and / or a swollen lining of the mouth. The swelling is usually red, warmed, and painful. If the upper jaw is affected, there may be swelling of the eyes. If the lower jaw is affected, it can be difficult to open your mouth. This can make speaking and eating difficult.

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The collection of pus can spread and damage surrounding nerves and muscles. This can lead to further restricted mobility and tingling or numbness. In addition, the inflammatory processes in the body can lead to a general feeling of illness and fatigue. If pus leaks into the oral cavity, it can result in a malodorous smell and a bad tasting smell and taste. Gangrene usually causes unpleasant bad breath. If the abscess progresses or is not treated, a fever can develop. In this context, a fever is a sign that the bacteria have reached the blood. At this point at the latest, a doctor must be consulted. Because it can lead to blood poisoning and corresponding complaints and complications. If blood poisoning is left untreated, it is fatal.

Read more about the symptoms of blood poisoning here.

You might also be interested in this topic: Mouth rot and symptoms of an abscess

Abscess in the upper jaw

The causes of a maxillary abscess have already been described above. With an abscess of the upper jaw, the upper area of ​​the face, including the eyes, can also be affected. It can lead to excessive pain, swelling, redness and overheating. The pain can radiate to the nose, cheek, temple, forehead and eye area. If the swelling is very severe, it may be difficult to open the eye on the affected side. Visual performance can be limited accordingly. The pain is often severe and pulsating. The abscess should be treated as soon as possible. Fever is a red flag.

More information can be found here: Abscess in the upper jaw

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Abscess in the lower jaw

The causes of a mandibular abscess were also explained above. With an abscess of the lower jaw, swallowing difficulties can also occur. The person may have difficulty opening their mouth. This problem is known as a jaw clamp. In the case of a lower jaw abscess, food intake is often more restricted. The area can be very sensitive to touch. Eating and drinking, brushing your teeth, swallowing, and speaking can be difficult. Some affected people also react sensitively to drafts. Weight loss can occur. Even with a lower jaw abscess, the pain can radiate to the lower face area, towards the chin and towards the ear. Here, too, it is important to act as quickly as possible and contact a dentist. If pain medication is taken temporarily, it should be borne in mind that this does not fix the cause. Medical treatment is essential.

More on the subject: Abscess in the lower jaw

Abscess in the cheek

A cheek abscess can develop directly on the skin or under the skin. It can be triggered by bacteria on the skin or in the mouth. It can also be related to a jaw abscess. A cheek abscess usually shows the same signs of inflammation as abscesses elsewhere on the body: swelling, pain, redness, and warmth. Treatment is also similar. The aim is to fight the bacterial infection with antibiotics and to drain the pus through a surgical procedure.

Find out more here: Abscess on the cheek


Often in the dental history it turns out that the patient had had severe toothache months before. This was followed by a pain-free period. When a jaw abscess has finished forming, pain may recur. With a jaw abscess, pain often only occurs at a later stage. The pain can arise from pressure and touch. This is referred to as tender pain. This can occur when eating, brushing teeth or during a dental examination. The pain can also arise without external irritation. In this case one speaks of a resting pain. In some cases the pain can be very intense and pulsating. The pain can also radiate to the ear and / or to the temple. Ear and headaches can also arise. Since the pain perception is very individual, the pain can be perceived very differently. In addition, so-called gangrene pain can develop.

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The earlier the abscess is treated, the better. The bacterial infection is treated with medication. Antibiotics are used. Depending on the causative pathogen and individual factors, a certain active ingredient is selected. The active ingredient is supposed to kill the pathogens that caused the infection. However, treatment with antibiotics alone is not enough to fight the abscess. Because the goal is that the pus is removed. In very favorable cases, it can flow off without surgical intervention. But often surgical measures are required. Often, a small incision with local anesthesia is sufficient to remove the abscess and to ensure that the bacteria do not spread further in the mouth. In the advanced stage, the procedure is more complex. In some cases, the abscess can no longer be reached through the oral cavity and must be made accessible through the opening in the skin. In addition, the affected tooth area or the tooth root or the underlying disease must be treated. Wound healing is required after treatment. It is important to follow the dentist's instructions.


If an abscess has developed in the jaw, it usually requires surgical treatment. When the abscess has advanced, various measures are required. Since an abscess is an inflamed area, local anesthetics have only limited effects. Local anesthetics have a local anesthetic effect. However, due to their properties, they can only have a limited effect on inflamed tissue. Pain may continue to be felt during the procedure. A short anesthetic is therefore recommended. Information and explanations are given beforehand orally and in writing. After the procedure, you should be picked up by someone. On the same day, no more cars should be driven and no machines should be operated. In addition, important decisions should be rescheduled for another day. If possible, the person concerned should allow themselves rest after the procedure. The abscess can be split or opened painlessly under the short anesthetic so that the pus can escape. A drainage system can then be placed in the area. In addition, antibiotic therapy, wound healing measures and progress monitoring are carried out.

Home remedies

In some cases, home remedies may be advisable for early stages of an abscess. Certain home remedies can also support the healing process of the jaw abscess to support other measures. This can be warmth from a red light lamp or warm compresses with warm water, or chamomile or sage tea. Mouthwashes with sage and sea salt can also have a healing and prophylactic effect. In addition, drinking nettle tea can aid the healing process.


In addition to the surgical and medicinal treatment, homeopathic remedies can have a supportive effect in some cases. The intake should be discussed with the attending physician. Depending on the symptoms, different homeopathics are recommended for abscesses in the jaw. For example, Hepar sulfuris, Ledum, Mecurius solubilis or Silicea are recommended. According to the German Central Association of Homeopathic Doctors (DZVhÄ), a potency of C12 is recommended for all active ingredients in self-treatment. As a rule, it is advisable to take 2 - 3 globules up to 4 times a day. The globules should be allowed to dissolve in the mouth. If possible, nothing should be eaten or drunk 15 minutes before and after ingestion.

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The duration of the jaw abscess depends on various factors. The earlier the abscess is treated, the lesser the procedure and the sooner the person can recover from the inflammation. The better the immune system, the faster the healing process can take place.

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