Background/aims: The periodontal abscess is a frequent periodontal condition in which periodontal tissues may be rapidly destroyed. Its importance is based on the possible need of urgent care, the affectation of tooth prognosis, and the possibility of infection spreading. There is scant information in the scientific literature regarding this condition and most of it has been published as case reports and text books, where conclusions are not evidence-based, but rather empirical observations made by recognised clinicians. The aim of this review was to critically analyse all available information on this subject in the dental and medical literature, including information on its prevalence, proposed etiologies and pathogenesis, diagnosis, microbiology and treatment alternatives.
Summary: The periodontal abscess is the 3rd most frequent dental emergency, and it is specially prevalent among untreated periodontal patients and periodontal patients during maintenance. Different etiologies have been proposed, and 2 main groups can be distinguished, depending on its relation with periodontal pockets. In the case of a periodontitis-related abscess, the condition may appear as an exacerbation of a non-treated periodontitis or during the course of periodontal therapy. In non-periodontitis related abscesses, impaction of foreign objects, and radicular abnormalities are the 2 main causes. The abscess microflora seems to be similar to that of adult periodontitis, and it is dominated by gram-negative anaerobic rods, including well-known periodontal pathogens. Complications and consequences include tooth loss and the spread of the infection to other body sites. Diagnosis and treatment is mainly based on empiricism, since evidence-based data are not available. The role of systemic antibiotics, in the treatment of periodontal abscesses, is especially controversial.