In terms of potentially painful dental conditions, an abscessed tooth can rank rather high on the list. In terms of pain free dentistry, the relief can be immediate upon visiting your dentist. An abscessed tooth can be extremely painful only when left untreated in the misguided hope that the situation will rectify itself, which is simply not the case.
Whether it's a periapical abscess (a bacterial infection forming in the base of the dental pulp), or a periodontal abscess (a bacterial infection forming in the gum next to the base of the dental pulp), the discomfort can be immense. Having the abscess treated can offer a speedy respite from the pain, even though the underlying cause for the abscess will need to be treated.
Draining the Abscess
The abscess will have created a swelling, which might be visible or might be contained within your gums, close to the dental pulp of the tooth in question. In any event, this swelling (created by the accumulation of pus) will put pressure on the sensitive dental pulp, leading to that characteristic abscess pain. Your dentist will be able to drain the affected area, removing a significant portion of the pus, and the pain relief can be immediate. If you are particularly sensitive to dental pain, your dentist might even be able to administer a local anesthetic prior to drainage.
Clearing the Infection
Draining the pus is only the first step, and antibiotics will generally be required to clear up the bacterial infection. This means that any subsequent pain during the healing process will quickly subside as the antibiotics allow your body to combat and banish the infection. Over the counter pain relief can be helpful, and again, if you're particularly sensitive to dental pain (or if the infection was acute), your dentist might provide you with a prescription for pain relief.
Fixing the Underlying Cause
Preventing reinfection is key, and this might require a root canal treatment. In some cases, the affected tooth might need to be removed, perhaps to be replaced with a dental implant at a later stage. Once again, this work can be performed under a local anesthetic with the possibility of post-operative pain relief.
Essentially you should never delay visiting a dentist with your abscessed tooth, fearing further pain. The abscess needs to be treated immediately, and a prompt visit to your dentist is the most effective way to prevent pain.