Practicing good oral hygiene will help prevent abscesses. Tooth decay breaks down enamel and leads to access for an abscess -- through the cavities and decay. Gum disease leads to larger pockets between teeth and gums where food and bacteria can gather. Diets high in sugar and lacking in nutrients increase the likelihood that mouth problems could lead to an abscess. Teeth damaged by force or trauma are also ideal entryways for bacteria. Soon after any accident involving a broken tooth or cracked dental work, have a dentist inspect for fissures of areas where the pulp may be exposed [source: Mayo Clinic].
If you do find yourself with a sudden throbbing, aching, sore and sensitive tooth, make an appointment with a dentist as soon as possible. Rinsing with salt water and using over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatories can relieve pain in the short term and reduce symptoms, and even help drain some of the pus buildup before it's purged by a dentist [sources: CUCDM; NIH]. But resist the urge to flush out the infected area yourself! Even if the abscess erupts on its own and pain eases up and you don't see any symptoms, remember that bacterial infections may be spreading quietly and painlessly inside your tooth or even deeper in the jaw bones.
In most cases a tooth abscess is treatable and teeth can be saved for good, as long as the infection is rooted out. Keeping teeth clean, gums healthy, and cavities or tooth injuries sealed will prevent most abscess infections. Brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and making regular dental checkups are effective preventatives. Following through with antibiotics if an abscess does form will keep bacteria from having access to the rest of your body.