How to Drain a Tooth Abscess at Home

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
June 29, 2022

Tooth abscesses are painful pockets of pus that can occur in different regions around a tooth.

Dealing with them can get very uncomfortable.

When you have one, simple things like eating and drinking may become a hassle.

In severe cases, even breathing can become difficult. 

If you’re reading this, then you might be interested in ways to drain your tooth abscess at home without seeing a dentist. 

In this article, I’ll discuss tooth abscesses, some symptoms that can help you recognize them, and whether you can drain a tooth abscess at home.

I’ll also talk about some home remedies to help relieve tooth abscess pain.

Finally, I’ll discuss tooth abscess treatments and when to see a doctor for a tooth abscess. 

What is a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is a buildup of pus that occurs when a tooth gets infected with bacteria.

It usually happens when a person has a broken, chipped, or decayed tooth.

When a tooth is injured, bacteria move into the cracks and small openings of the enamel and infect the tooth’s center, called the pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. 

An infection in the pulp may spread to bones supporting the tooth, the face, and even the eyes.

Certain health issues can make people more susceptible to tooth abscesses, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, or weak enamel conditions like amelogenesis imperfecta.

Regularly eating sugary foods also puts you at risk of getting dental abscesses.  

The two major types of tooth abscesses are periapical abscess and periodontal abscess. 

A periapical tooth abscess occurs at the tip of the root (the part of the tooth just below the gum).

A periapical tooth abscess usually happens in people with dental cavities

If dental cavities are left untreated, the inside of your tooth becomes exposed to substances that can inflame the nerves and blood vessels and cause pain.

A periodontal abscess can then form  in the gums and is often the result of untreated, severe gum disease.

You can usually find this type of abscess by the side of the tooth. 

Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess

If you have a tooth abscess, you’ll likely have a sharp, throbbing, or gnawing toothache.

This toothache is usually the first sign that something is wrong.

Other symptoms of a tooth abscess may include:

  • Fever
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold food or drink
  • Discomfort
  • Swollen neck glands
  • Pain when chewing
  • Breath odor
  • Swollen upper or lower jaw
  • Swollen gum
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Trouble breathing or swallowing
  • A salty taste in the mouth

In some cases, the pulp of the affected tooth can die.

When this happens, you may stop feeling pain—but that doesn’t mean the tooth abscess is gone.

The infection may continue spreading to other parts of the mouth and face and cause serious problems.

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Can You Drain a Tooth Abscess at Home?

Abscess drainage has to be done by a trained dentist under proper surgical conditions.

You should not try to drain a tooth abscess by yourself.

If you have a dental abscess, see a dentist as soon as possible.

But if you can’t see a dentist right away, there are some home remedies you can use to reduce the pain temporarily. 

Home Remedies to Relieve Tooth Abscess Pain

You can manage the pain from your tooth abscess using some inexpensive home remedies.

These remedies do not replace going to a dentist; they’re only going to help you deal with the pain until a dentist can attend to you.

Some of these home remedies include:

Rinse Using Salt Water

A saltwater rinse will help ease your tooth pain.

Saltwater has some anti-inflammatory and wound-healing effects.

To use the salt rinse remedy, mix 1⁄2 teaspoon of table salt with ½ cup of water.

Next, rinse your mouth with the salt water and swish it around your mouth for at least two minutes, then spit the water out.

Do this up to three times daily

Baking Soda

Baking soda has some antibacterial properties and may help remove plaque from the mouth.

If you’d like to use this remedy, mix ½ tablespoon of baking soda with equal parts water and rinse your mouth with the mixture for 5 minutes.

Spit out and repeat the process until you’re done with the mixture.

Oregano Oil

Oregano oil is an essential oil that may help reduce the pain and swelling caused by a tooth abscess because of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. 

Oregano oil is pretty strong, so to avoid irritation, be sure to dilute it with a carrier oil before use.

Carrier oils are oils that dilute essential oils and make them safe to use, like olive oil, sunflower oil, or avocado oil.

You can dilute your essential oils correctly using this guide:

Diluting for adults: 

  • 2.5 percent dilution: 15 drops of essential oil to 6 teaspoons of carrier oil
  • 3 percent dilution: 20 drops of essential oil to 6 teaspoons of carrier oil
  • 5 percent dilution: 30 drops of essential oil to 6 teaspoons of carrier oil
  • 10 percent dilution: 60 drops of essential oil to 6 teaspoons of carrier oil

Diluting for children:

  • 0.5 to 1 percent dilution: 3 to 6 drops of essential oil to 6 teaspoons of carrier oil

After you’ve diluted the oregano oil, apply a few drops of the diluted oil to a swab or cotton ball.

Put the cotton ball in contact with the tooth abscess and leave for 10 minutes before rinsing out.

Repeat this process three times daily.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide has strong antibacterial properties. It’s also helpful in reducing dental plaque and bleeding gums. 

To use this remedy, mix equal parts hydrogen peroxide with water.

Be careful not to swallow any of it as you swish it around your mouth.

Carefully spit out the mix. You can repeat this procedure multiple times in a day.

Cold Compress

A cold compress can help reduce toothache and swelling.

To use a cold compress, place ice cubes in a dry towel and press the towel against your skin near the affected area.

Use this for 15 minutes multiple times a day.

Garlic

Garlic may help soothe the pain and kill bacteria.

To use garlic on your abscessed tooth, crush a fresh clove of garlic into a paste and rub it on the infected area.

You can repeat this multiple times in a day.

Tooth Abscess Treatments

You can get proper treatment for your abscessed tooth at the dentist.

Here are some treatments to expect when you visit your dentist:

Draining 

Your dentist will drain out the pus from your abscess by making small cuts into the abscess.

They’ll then wash out the area with a sterile saline solution.

Sometimes, they may place a small rubber drain in the mouth to keep the space open for drainage.

If you have a drain placed, it will usually need to be removed after a few days.

Root Canal

A root canal procedure helps to remove the infection.

The dentist drills into the affected tooth and removes any infected pulp.

Then they drain out the abscess and fill and seal the pulp chamber and root canals to ensure that bacteria doesn’t get in.

They may also cap your tooth with a crown to make it stronger.

Tooth Extractions

If the affected tooth is badly damaged, the dentist will extract the tooth before draining out the abscess. 

Antibiotics 

Antibiotics are not the preferred treatment option for most tooth abscess cases.

The American Dental Association only recommends antibiotic treatment in patients with severe dental abscesses.

If your dentist suspects that the infection has spread to other parts of the body, they will prescribe oral antibiotics to treat the infection. 

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When to See a Dentist for a Tooth Abscess

If you have a tooth abscess, visit the dentist as soon as possible.

A tooth abscess won’t go away on its own without treatment.

Worse yet, it can spread to other parts of the body and become a severe health risk. 

If you notice a rapid heartbeat, fever, difficulty breathing or swallowing, or neck, jaw, or facial swelling, it may be a sign that your tooth infection is spreading.

Go to the nearest emergency room or call your dentist or healthcare provider. 

How K Health Can Help

Did you know that you can get online dental prescriptions for tooth infections? 

Download the K Health app to check your symptoms using our symptom checker and text with a doctor in minutes. 

K Health’s board-certified, U.S.-based doctors can provide a treatment plan and, if required, a prescription to resolve your symptoms as soon as possible. Clinicians are available 24/7.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I drain an abscessed tooth myself?
Don't try to drain an abscessed tooth by yourself. See your dentist if you have an abscessed tooth.
Can I pop a tooth abscess with a needle?
No, you cannot pop an abscessed tooth with a needle. This can expose you to a worse infection and potentially spread the infection to other parts of your mouth and face.
What can I put on an abscessed tooth to draw it out?
It’s not safe to draw out the tooth abscess on your own. Visit a dentist to clear out your tooth abscess.
How do you bring a tooth abscess to a head?
You can’t bring a tooth abscess to a head. If you have problems with your tooth, you need to see a dentist.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.

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