Tooth Abscess

A tooth abscess is a collection of pus that forms in the gums or at the base of a tooth. Abscesses can be acute, chronic, or recurrent. Acute abscesses are associated with a buildup of toxicity-heat in the affected area, with or without systemic heat. Chronic abscesses, on the other hand, are due to an equilibrium between weakened normal qi and a residual pathogen. Chronic tooth abscesses are persistent, and are often complicated by phlegm, blood stasis, and/or yin deficiency.


Poor Oral Hygiene

Tooth abscesses, both acute and chronic, are often caused by poor oral hygiene and inadequate dental care. While systemic health conditions can make the gums and teeth more vulnerable to infection, poor oral hygiene and lack of dental attention are the most common triggers for tooth abscesses.


Certain aspects of diet can increase a person's risk of developing a tooth abscess. Eating large amounts of spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, and chocolate can cause heat to accumulate in the stomach. When this heat rises, it can affect the structures in the upper body associated with the stomach and spleen, setting the stage for a local trauma, such as tooth decay or rotting food, to cause an abscess.

Additionally, consuming foods or substances that weaken the spleen and create dampness or phlegm, such as cold, raw foods and dairy products, or taking multiple courses of antibiotics, can promote the development of a chronic abscess.

Emotional Factors

The most common pattern that contributes to tooth abscess is one that affects the liver and then the stomach. Liver qi constraint, caused by repressed emotions such as frustration, anger, and resentment, can lead to heat build-up in the liver. This heat can then rise to affect the upper structures of the stomach.

Constrained liver qi can also disrupt spleen function and digestive efficiency. Spleen weakness and inefficient digestion can create dampness, which can obstruct qi circulation and generate heat. This can contribute to the development of a tooth abscess.


Antibiotics are often the first treatment option for acute pyogenic lesions, including tooth abscesses. Antibiotics are effective for treating excess heat-type lesions, but they do not disperse the pathogen defined by Chinese medicine. Instead, the pathogen can become locked away and persistent, leading to chronic or recurrent lesions. Chinese medical treatment can be effective for acute excess heat-type lesions, providing support to the body and normal qi while also dispersing the pathogen.

Chinese medical treatment can be particularly beneficial for chronic or recurrent lesions that do not respond well to conventional treatments. In cases where Chinese medical treatments are not effective, surgical drainage of the abscess may be necessary. In these cases, additional treatment to support normal qi, aid recovery and healing, expel any residual toxicity, and prevent recurrence can still be beneficial.