Can Popping a Gum Abscess Kill You?

Written & Reviewed by Dr David Chen

Popping a gum abscess won’t kill you but it also won’t make the infection go away. Instead of a DIY at home remedy for momentary pain relief, you should see a dentist for permanent relief.

person with question marks

Let us explain why.

Popping a gum abscess won’t kill you

You will not die from having a gum abscess popped because draining an infection is a legitimate dental treatment for abscesses. If you don’t pop it, there is no other way to physically remove the large quantity of purulence (pus) from your body.

Evidence of this can be seen in how your dentist treats it.

As a part of getting rid of the gum abscess, one of the procedures involves popping and draining it. That is how they get the gums which is swollen with pus to decrease in size and return to normal.

The procedure is a physical process that gets rid of the inflammatory exudate inside of the swelling. The technical term for the treatment is an incision and drainage. The incision is when the abscess gets popped and the drainage is when the infected fluids get drained out.

Therefore, if dentists all around the world have been draining gum abscesses, there is no reason to believe that if you pop it yourself, you would die. You’ll definitely survive to see the next sunrise.

However we would caution against trying to do it yourself because draining the infection is only the first step of the overall treatment. This is especially true if the abscess is in its later and more advanced stages of swelling.

Gum abscess will remain despite being popped

Draining a gum abscess is only a part of the treatment because it treats the symptom but not the source of the infection. Therefore, if all you do is just pop it, the infection will return again and usually with a vengeance. Essentially you haven’t treated the source of all the swelling.

Source of gum abscess

The most common cause of a gum abscess is foreign body impaction such as from food while eating.

  • Popcorn kernel
  • Seeds or small hard foods
  • Fish bones
  • Tortilla or potato chips

Therefore the gum swelling is usually the result of food being lodged into the gums. Even if you pop the swelling and get it to decrease in size, you’ve done nothing to dislodge the stuck food. Ultimately, the source which is the impacted food remains in the gum and the swelling will return later on.

Alternative source

Most people develop this type of swelling from mealtime accidents but another possible cause would be localized severe periodontitis. Those with severe gum disease have very loose gums and that makes it prone to getting food stuck.

However, if there is major tartar build up in a certain spot, that can also result in swelling as well. If it gets bad enough it can become abscessed. Nonetheless, the treatment still remains the same.

Full treatment

Complete treatment for a gum abscess would involve draining the abscess in addition to removing the source. Typically, scaling and root planing along with gingival curettage is effective in removing the lodged foreign object. This procedure is commonly known as a deep teeth cleaning but it is done in a localized area.

Since the object is usually embedded deep within the gums or in the gum pocket, you need to be able to reach it. Brushing and flossing won’t be able to get to it. You’ve probably been brushing, flossing, and rinsing a lot but to no avail.

The reason why none of the at home remedies are working is because you require professional help.

Permanent treatment requires a dentist

If you attempt to pop it yourself, you only be able to address one of the symptoms of the disease. Sure, decreasing the swelling will offer you temporary pain relief but it does nothing to cure it permanently.

For permanent treatment to make the infection go away, you will require the assistance of a dentist. Only they can perform scaling and root planing.

What to expect for scaling and root planing:

  1. Administer local anesthesia to numb the area.
  2. Gross debridement with the ultrasonic.
  3. Scale and root plane the teeth as deep as possible with scalers.
  4. Curette the gingival as well.
  5. Flush out the entire area with an antibiotic solution.

Afterwards, depending on severe the swelling is you may be prescribed antibiotics. Although you should expect to be given a RX for an antibiotic rinse called chlorhexidine. Using this mouthwash twice a day for 2 weeks will help the gums heal faster.

Chlorhexidine gluconate mouth rinse

Takeaway

If you pop a gum abscess it certainly won’t kill you because even your dentist needs to do drain it as a part of its treatment. However that doesn’t mean you should attempt to pop it by yourself and think you’ve successfully treated it.

The reason is because you’ve done nothing to address the source of the infection. Typically the abscess is from a foreign body being lodged in the gums and until you get that out, the infection will persist. Therefore the only one who can successfully treat it is your dentist.

Basically what we’re trying to say is you should make an appointment for a dental consultation.

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Our purpose at afterva, is to encourage you to seek in person care with a doctor. It's not meant to be a substitute for medical advice.

A lot of nuances cannot be detected without an in-person clinical exam, which means it is near impossible to diagnose and treat virtually.

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