6.2.4  Tooth abscesses, mouth ulcers and cold sores

Tooth pulp is the deepest part of the tooth structure, where nerves and blood vessels are found (look back at Figure 6.2). If it becomes diseased or injured and can't repair itself, the tooth dies and will soon fall out. The most common cause of pulp death is a cracked tooth or a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let bacteria enter the pulp and cause an infection inside the tooth. This infection can create a tooth abscess, which is a collection of pus trapped inside the root of the tooth, or in the tissue surrounding the root. Tooth abscesses are very painful and often produce swelling of the mouth in the affected area. The tooth may have to be removed to release the pus and allow the infected area to recover. The patient may also need antibiotic treatment.

Mouth ulcers are open sores in the mouth, where infection has penetrated the outer layer of tissue. The edge of an ulcer is often ‘rolled’ like a piece of injera. Salt water mouth washes may be enough to kill the infection in a mouth ulcer. Another common oral infection are cold sores – rapidly developing ‘scabs’ on the lips and around the edges of the mouth, caused by Herpes viruses (Figure 6.7).

Cold sore caused by Herpes viruses
Figure 6.7  A cold sore on the lip caused by Herpes viruses. (Photo: Public Health Image Library, image 1573)

6.2.5  Eroded or broken teeth