Tooth Infections: The Warning Signs, Causes, and Treatments

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Tooth Infections: The Warning Signs, Causes, and Treatments

Maintaining good oral health doesn’t just keep cavities away, it also prevents infections. Tooth infections happen when bacteria find their way inside a tooth through a crack or a cavity. Tooth infections can affect anyone, from children to young adults to seniors. Understanding the causes, recognizing the warning signs, and seeking timely treatment are essential to prevent complications. Here’s how to know whether your toothache is a sign of an infection. 

What Causes a Tooth Infection?

When bacteria breach the enamel (the protective outer layer of a tooth) and enter the pulp inside the tooth, they cause infections. This can happen due to untreated cavities, cracked teeth, or dental trauma. As the bacteria multiply, the infection spreads and can cause significant pain as well as other symptoms, like swollen gums or an abscess. Practicing good oral hygiene and regularly visiting the dentist for cleanings will help eliminate bad bacteria, preventing tooth infections and other dental problems.  

Five Symptoms of Tooth Infections

1. Persistent Toothache

One of the primary signs of a tooth infection is a constant, throbbing toothache. The toothache may worsen when biting or chewing, and the pain may radiate to the jaw.

2. Swelling and Redness 

Irritation such as swelling and redness of the gums around the affected tooth can indicate an infection. 

3. Painful Chewing 

Difficulty chewing or pain while chewing can be signs of a tooth infection. 

4. Bad Breath and Foul Taste in Mouth

Persistent bad breath and a foul taste in the mouth may occur as the bacteria multiply. 

5. Fever

In some cases, a low-grade fever may develop as the body tries to fight the infection. 

What Are the Signs a Tooth Infection Has Spread?

Timely intervention can prevent the spread of a tooth infection. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other areas of the body, requiring urgent medical attention. Look out for these signs that the tooth infection may be spreading:

  • A spreading infection can cause significant swelling in the jaw or face.
  • Severe infections may impact the throat, making swallowing or breathing challenging. 
  • An escalating fever may indicate that the infection has spread to other parts of the body. If you have a high fever, seek medical treatment immediately.

Treatment Options for Tooth Infections

1. Antibiotics

To combat the bacterial infection, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics. These medications help eliminate the bacteria causing the infection.

2. Root Canal Therapy

If the infection has reached the nerves and blood vessels inside the tooth, a root canal procedure may be necessary to remove the infected tissue and prevent the tooth from dying. While the thought of needing a root canal can be intimidating, painful root canals are just a myth. Thanks to local anesthesia, you don’t feel any pain during the procedure—it’s just like having a cavity filled or getting a dental crown. 

3. Drainage

In some cases, your dentist may need to drain a pus-filled abscess to alleviate the pain and promote healing. However, if a dental abscess does not form, no drainage is required.

4. Tooth Extraction

As dentists, we do everything in our power to save a tooth. However, for severely infected teeth, extraction is the only option. Removing the tooth is typically only necessary if the infection has caused extensive, irreparable damage. 

Never Ignore the Warning Signs

Tooth infections aren’t the only dental issue to worry about. Tooth pain, swollen gums, and persistent bad breath are all serious signs that something is wrong. If you are experiencing any pain or other symptoms of a tooth infection, please don’t hesitate to schedule an urgent appointment with Dr. Saba and Associates. We can help adults in Sun Lakes save their teeth with comprehensive dental care. Don’t put off the treatment you need—give us a call today.


Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/26/2024). Photo by Nsey Benajah on Unsplash