The microbiology of the acute dental abscess

J Med Microbiol. 2009 Feb;58(Pt 2):155-162. doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.003517-0.


The acute dental abscess is frequently underestimated in terms of its morbidity and mortality. The risk of potential serious consequences arising from the spread of a dental abscess is still relevant today with many hospital admissions for dental sepsis. The acute dental abscess is usually polymicrobial comprising facultative anaerobes, such as viridans group streptococci and the Streptococcus anginosus group, with predominantly strict anaerobes, such as anaerobic cocci, Prevotella and Fusobacterium species. The use of non-culture techniques has expanded our insight into the microbial diversity of the causative agents, identifying such organisms as Treponema species and anaerobic Gram-positive rods such as Bulleidia extructa, Cryptobacterium curtum and Mogibacterium timidum. Despite some reports of increasing antimicrobial resistance in isolates from acute dental infection, the vast majority of localized dental abscesses respond to surgical treatment, with antimicrobials limited to spreading and severe infections. The microbiology and treatment of the acute localized abscess and severe spreading odontogenic infections are reviewed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / drug therapy
  • Abscess / microbiology*
  • Abscess / surgery
  • Bacteria, Anaerobic / isolation & purification
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology*
  • Bacterial Infections / surgery
  • Gram-Negative Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Gram-Positive Bacteria / isolation & purification
  • Humans
  • Stomatognathic Diseases / drug therapy
  • Stomatognathic Diseases / microbiology*
  • Stomatognathic Diseases / surgery