A tooth abscess or gum abscess is an infection of the tooth that causes an accumulation of pus around the gums or under the tooth. Leakage from previous dental work, oral injury, or untreated decay are the common triggers of infection. A tooth abscess or infection can also develop from a broken or chipped tooth. There are 4 stages of gum abscess listed below:

Gum Abscess Stages

1. Enamel Decay

The first stage of dental abscess affects the topmost layer of teeth, known as enamel. A common cause of enamel decay is the accumulation of plaque on your teeth. For some, this stage can be symptomless. While others may have tooth sensitivity or dark spots may appear on their teeth.

2. Dentin Decay

Leaving the enamel decay untreated can worsen the condition, and the decay can reach the dentin – the layer beneath the enamel. Your tooth sensitivity may increase during this tooth abscess stage. The development of tiny cracks or holes in your tooth is another sign of dentin decay.

3. Pulp Decay

Pulp is the soft, innermost layer of your tooth. If bacteria are successful in reaching this deep layer, they can damage the tooth’s nerve. This results in severe toothache and discomfort. Slowly the nerve of the tooth dies, and dental abscess starts to develop.

4. Abscess Formation

If bacteria gets closer to the pulp, it can spread to your jaw bone or gums. Here are the symptoms of abscess formation

  • Gum inflammation
  • Formation of a small lesion on the gums
  • Pulsating pain in gums, teeth, and nearby area

Serious Complications

Visit your dentist immediately for the treatment of tooth abscess otherwise, you may end up with severe problems such as:
If tooth decay becomes severe, it can cause tooth loss
Bacteria can enter your bloodstream and result in sepsis (deadly infection)

Summing Up

The four stages of a gum abscess include enamel decay, dentin decay, pulp decay, and abscess formation.

What Causes Dental Abscesses?

Injuries & Damage

Dental trauma or deep cracks in the tooth can result in bacteria spreading deep into teeth or gums, causing tooth abscess.


If you have a weak immune system or you’re on meds for underlying medical conditions, the chances for abscess development increase.

Sugary Food Items

High usage of processed or sugary foods makes teeth more vulnerable to the build-up of calculus and plaque. Tooth decay can form due to poor oral hygiene. If tooth decay is left untreated for long, it can result in a dental abscess.

Symptoms of a Dental Abscess

Here are a few common symptoms of gum abscess.

  • Severe tooth pain near the affected tooth, gums, or tooth root that comes and goes.
  • Swollen gums
  • Redness and inflammation near the abscess
  • Pain when eating
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Painful, inflamed lymph nodes in the neck
  • Difficulties swallowing and breathing
  • Severe ear, neck, or jaw pain
  • Swelling of face
  • Fever

If your abscess burst, you may experience a salty taste and foul smell in your mouth. If this happens, contact your dentist right away.

Skip to content