Gum Abscesses

Dear Dr. Ellie,

I was worried that My son’s tooth may have died, so we went to a gentle pediatric dentist yesterday, and he said to keep a watch out for gum abscesses. So I looked up abscess in my baby medical book and it said this is usually caused by bacterial infection and a compromised immune system. What is an abscess and does Xylitol, because it does inhibit bacteria, can prevent abscesses? 


Hi N,

Xylitol cannot help if a tooth has already died. I hope you managed to catch the problems in time but do keep a look out for a lump on the gum. If this happens it is not going to be bad treatment for a baby tooth abscess can be quite simple.

For teeth, the formation of an abscess happens when bacteria grow and multiply inside the tooth in the part of the tooth that is called the “pulp” of the tooth. Every tooth has a pulp in the center of it both in the crown of the tooth ( covered by an outer layer of dentin and then a coating of enamel on the very outside) and in the root part below the gum. The root of a tooth has a pulp area that goes down the root to connect with blood vessels and nerves in the jaw bone. The pulp literally connects a tooth to the body. The health of the pulp is protected in a healthy tooth by the covering of dentin and enamel. If a cavity has formed in these covering layers they become weakened and porous. This weakened covering can allow bacteria to travel inside the tooth and reach the pulp in the center. Now is the time when the outcome will depends on your immune system and resistance to infection. It also depends on the aggressive qualities of the bacteria – how many of them etc.

I am not sure if xylitol can help the pulp fight the bacteria in any way. Certainly xylitol reduces the numbers of harmful bacteria in the mouth and so there will be less of the aggressive kind around. The main use of xylitol is that it helps to deposit new minerals into soft areas in the covering layers of teeth. This literally blocks up the access to the inside pulp of the tooth. Xylitol can “shut the door” on the bacteria and stop them from getting into the center of the tooth.

So even if you had a cavity that was not filled, xylitol can help protect the inside of this tooth from becoming infected IF you catch the problem in time. If bacteria already reached the inside of the tooth before the xylitol treatment started we would have to hope that the body can fight the infection. If it is unable to fight the infective bacteria, they will gradually take over the pulp area and an abscess forms. I think you have a good chance that you started taking xylitol in time to have prevented this. If you continue the xylitol you will continue to reduce the risk of an abscess forming. Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions I can answer. I hope the answer is clear it is a little complicated to explain!

Best Wishes,
Ellie Phillips, DDS

Categories: Uncategorized


  • Anonymous says:

    my 3 1/2 year old just had a surface cavity filled on april 22 09 that night i noticed the tooth looked a litte gray she said it hurt when she was eating icecream i let it go and that seemed to go away then a few days after that when i wiped her mouth she said ahw. so i lifted up her lip and way on top there was a small redish area.I took her back to the dentist and he took an x-ray but everything looked okay in side. he gave me a antibotic and said lets see how she reacts if she complains of pain the tooth will have to come out.I asked about a baby root canal he said ti would not work because the tooth had trauma.I am unaware of any trauma.The only trauma was having this little filling done.I am so worried. Can this xylitol work for me and wqere to I buy it.I live in N.j. thank you Tracy

  • Dr. Ellie says:

    I cannot make a diagnosis from this message but it seems strange that the baby tooth cannot be saved.Is this a pediatric dentist?You may want to try a second opinion- at 31/2 it is very young to loose a front tooth. My other thought is that the tooth is actually fine and the reddish area (that was painful) may have been an ulcer or something unrelated to the tooth.Is your child using toothpaste – and if so, did you by any chance try a new one?Often toothpastes can cause mouth irritations – especially the newer ones like Pro Health. I would suggest xylitol for your daughter anyway – but it cannot repair a broken tooth ( if that is the problem).Xylitol will help to strengthen you child’s teeth and will help prevent any more cavities. I would suggest in place of toothpaste, she brush her teeth with a clean toothbrush and a drop of ACT bubblegum rinse on the brush. My guess is that this was likely something else that caused the pain (because the symptoms do not seem to indicate a dead tooth with an abscess on the gum).I hope this is the case, because it will all resolve and you will not need any treatment. Thanks for you message – I hope this helps.Ellie

  • Julia says:

    Is there a difference between tooth abscess and gum abscess? I don’t want to do a root canal, should I extract the tooth if it appears that it has a gum abscess (although tooth looks and feels good) because x-ray did not show any black near the roots of the tooth? Or should I try home remedies to wait and see if gum abscess will go away?

    • I’d suggest before you loose this tooth – use every strategy I suggest – all at the same time.
      1) Get two new brushes and find my video to see how to massage this area. Mouth Watcher’s is a great brand and you need one for the morning and one for night. They need 24 hours between uses to dry and remain “firm” enough to massage this area on the inside and outside of the gum.
      2) Follow my Complete Mouth Care System – using all the rinses and Zellie’s mints or gum after every meal, snack or drink.
      3) Try to give your mouth time when you are not eating or drinking – so that the immune cells and nutrients in saliva (undiluted by water or other drinks) can interact with this area of your mouth to heal it.
      4) You can purchase a complete mouth care kit and the brushes at
      5) Additionally take some digestive probiotics and eat a healthy diet for even more improvements.
      NOTE: don’t worry if you see some bleeding in this area when you first start brushing it. Remember that every part of my system is important – so check out My Complete Mouth Care System and you should see improvement in about 3 months.

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