"Abscess" even sounds painful. And it is.
MedlinePlus defines tooth abscess as "a collection of infected material (pus) due to a bacterial infection in the center of a tooth."
Infection occurs at the root, or between gums and tooth, usually in the form of a sac filled with pus.
Pus consists of dead tissue, bacteria both living and dead, and white blood cells. Combine this with tissue swelling inside the tooth and you've got a painful infection.
Tooth decay as well as trauma like chipping or breaking a tooth can lead to abscess. These conditions leave openings which bacteria can enter, causing infection in the pulp at the center of a tooth.
The pulp dies when decay gets to it. That's where the blood supply and nerves are.
The tooth can then experience the spread of infection from its roots on to the bones in the surrounding area.
Abscesses between teeth and gums are generally caused by food and bacteria being trapped in a hard-to-clean spot in the mouth. They may also be caused by gum infection or advanced gum disease.
If you have an abscess you may have a number of symptoms, none of them pleasant. Pain is continual, and comes in several types, including aching, sharp, shooting and throbbing pain.
Other symptoms include a bitter taste in the mouth, and bad breath. Chewing can be painful and teeth may be sensitive to heat and/or cold.
You may develop a fever, or swollen neck glands or swollen lower or upper jaw. Gums can be red and swollen, and your face can be swollen as well.
You may experience open draining sores on the gums.
See your dentist as soon as you can. Delay can only allow for spreading and increasing infection which can affect teeth and tissue in the area.
Meanwhile, it is possible to ease the pain a bit with a few techniques.
Stay away from food that is cold or hot, high in sugar or in acidity.
If you can stand it, floss between the affected teeth, to remove plaque and food particles.
Apply eugenol, also known as oil of cloves. It has antiseptic and anesthetic properties which means it helps clean the area and numbs the pain temporarily.