You may have no clue what a gum abscess is, and you’re not alone. Luckily gum abscesses in children are not very common, but they occur. Knowledge is power, and preparation is vital in facing future emergencies. As a parent, it’s good to know what can happen in your child’s mouth, what to look out for, and what to do if something problematic arises.

What Your Family Dentist Wants You to Know About Gum Abscess in Children

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What is a Gum Abscess?

An abscess is a pocket of pus that develops somewhere in the body. A gum abscess develops inside your mouth and on the gums. It can be painful and lead to severe complications. An abscess is essentially the body’s way of fighting an infection, which can vary in severity.

What Causes a Gum Abscess?

A gum abscess forms when bacteria trapped between the teeth and gums cause an infection that worsens when left alone. Gum abscesses can be a result of periodontal disease, which is a result of poor oral care.

With children, trapped food is a common culprit. For instance, your child might snack on popcorn at movie night and get a hull lodged in the area between the tooth and gum. If you’re a frequent popcorn eater, you know the irritable feeling. With adults, we’d likely get the kernel out before we brush our teeth or remove it when we brush. A child may not notice initially, and the dang thing stays put. There’s a chance that a little piece of seed might remain there and fester until it turns into a miserable periodontal abscess.

As if our children’s natural growing pains, such as teeth growing in, bones adjusting, and immune systems changing, weren’t quite enough; an abscess in their mouth may take the cake for discomfort. A gum abscess often begins as a cavity and spreads from the gum. This is one of the reasons why it’s so vital to get cavities taken care of as soon as possible. If your child has a cavity, take them to their Utah kids’ dentist for their regular bi-annual cleanings. That way, you can get treatment before things worsen.

Often, before pain, an early symptom of an abscess in a child’s lower teeth is difficulty breathing due to inflammation that may affect the airway. Abscesses near the upper teeth are even more severe as inflammation can transfer to the brain. If an upper abscess is not treated, it can be life-threatening.

As we said earlier, knowledge is power. Knowing what an abscess is can help you detect the problem quickly. If left alone, an abscess can soon become excruciating and dire.

Symptoms of a Gum Abscess

Luckily, the signs of a gum abscess are noticeable and red wave flags. Abscesses typically cause pressure, and the pressure may cause pain that spreads to your ears, neck, or jaw. Even if your child has a hard time detecting where their pain is, they will probably complain or fuss. Some more signs of an abscess in children include:

  • Redness or swelling in the face
  • Swollen/shiny gums
  • Bad breath
  • Bad taste in the mouth that doesn’t go away
  • Spontaneous shooting pain in the teeth
  • Fever
  • Painful chewing
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold liquids
  • Swollen jaw or neck glands

Call your Utah family dentist right away if your child is experiencing any of the above symptoms. It’s always better to be on the safe side. Abscesses do not heal over time; they worsen and damage the surrounding teeth. Furthermore, they can spread the infection to other parts of the body and create a domino effect of health problems as your body works overtime to fight the infection.

One abscess can theoretically lead to more abscesses. If you even slightly suspect a gum abscess, take it seriously and get it checked out. We never want our kids to endure more pain than they have to, and if a cavity is caught early on, you can prevent them from climbing a mountain of pain and irritation.


The best-case scenario is that you never have to deal with an abscess, so let’s talk about how to prevent that dreaded abscess that hurts just thinking about it. Like preventing any other dental infection, proper and diligent oral care is number one. As soon as your child’s first teeth come in, you should brush those bad boys twice daily. It’s never too early to floss, either. Even if your child has gaps between each tooth, creating that dental habit of flossing will create a solid foundation for a lifetime of excellent dental habits.

Flossing should happen once daily. Limiting snacking and excess sweets is also a great defense against gum abscesses. In addition, be careful with high-starch foods and processed snacks, as they are an ideal breeding ground for icky bacteria to grow and thrive. Soda is probably the worst of all for your child’s teeth, so limit their sugary beverages and be on top of rinsing and brushing after excess candy and other bacteria-building snacks.

If your child has an abscess, your Kaysville dentist will likely do a simple procedure to drain the pus buildup and possibly make an incision to free anything trapped in there, such as a popcorn kernel. Relief will be right around the corner, and your dentist may prescribe some pain medication or antibiotics afterward. Now that you know what a gum abscess is do everything you can to prevent it. Call us today to get your child on the books for your regular teeth cleanings.