Practicing good oral hygiene can help you do more than maintain a beautiful smile and ensure a healthy mouth. It can also, in most instances, protect you from developing problematic tooth infections.
While a tooth infection may seem like a temporary condition and appear to be easy to treat, it’s essential that you don’t ignore it, even for a short time. Getting a prompt diagnosis and undergoing treatment can make all the difference and result in a quick and thorough recovery, lessening the threat of health issues arising in other parts of the body.
What Causes a Tooth Infection?
A tooth infection can occur due to different causes, including untreated decay in a tooth (cavity), previous unhealed dental work, or direct trauma and injury to a tooth.
Bacteria accumulate and form a pus pocket, called an abscess, either at the tip of the tooth root (periapical infection) or at the sides of the tooth or inside the gums surrounding the tooth (a periodontal infection).
Several factors can also lead to a tooth infection, including poor dental hygiene, a high-sugar diet, persistent dry mouth, and a weakened or compromised immune system.
What are the Symptoms of a Tooth Infection?
An infected tooth can result in a variety of symptoms that can impede normal, everyday activities, such as chewing, drinking, and even speaking.
Symptoms of a tooth infection may include one or many of the following:
- A throbbing, severe, or persistent pain
- Pain or difficulty when biting down, eating, or chewing
- Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold
- Sensitivity when pressing on a tooth
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Bad taste in your mouth
- Swelling of the gums in the area of the affected tooth
- Swelling or discomfort in the jaw
- Swelling in the face or along the neck glands
What is the Treatment for a Tooth Infection?
After receiving a diagnosis of an infected tooth or abscess, your dentist will most likely provide the following treatment.
- Draining the Abscess
Your dentist will make a tiny incision in the abscess to facilitate draining. Pus filled with the bacteria will drain out to relieve the pressure.
- Conducting a Dental Procedure
Once drainage is complete, your dentist will thoroughly clean the area. At this point, a dental procedure will be necessary and may include a root canal or a full tooth extraction, depending on the circumstances.
- Prescribing Medications
To ensure all the infection and any remaining bacteria are cleared out and to reduce the risk of spreading to other areas, your dentist will most likely prescribe antibiotics. If pain persists, you may also receive a pain reliever.
Can a Tooth Infection Lead to Other Health Issues?
The infection itself develops in the pulp of the tooth, where connective tissues, blood vessels, and nerves reside. If left untreated, the bacteria of that infection can spread to the surrounding gums, tissues, and bones. It can even travel into the bloodstream and reach other parts of the body.
All of these can lead to other health issues, including the following.
A tooth infection can lead to gum disease, which can advance to such a point that you can be at high risk for losing one or more teeth. Severe gum disease can also lead to the development of diabetes, stroke, or heart disease. Your dentist can provide treatment to heal or at least slow the progression of the gum disease.
Sinus and Jaw Infections
One tooth infection can quickly spread to the jaw and sinus areas of the face, resulting in additional infections. If this occurs, you will possibly need to take antibiotics or undergo surgery.
Increase Risk for Heart Disease
The bacteria that caused the tooth infection may travel into your bloodstream and increase your risk for developing heart disease. Over time, it may even lead to heart attacks as it weakens the coronary arteries and narrows their structure.
If the infection travels into your bloodstream, it can cause a blood infection called sepsis. This health issue is most common in those with weak or compromised immune systems. Symptoms to look out for include a high fever, rapid heart rate, breathing difficulties, mental confusion, and mottled skin. Immediate diagnosis and treatment are imperative.
An unattended tooth abscess can develop into meningitis, a dangerous bacterial infection that requires immediate treatment. Symptoms often resemble the flu and include headache, fever, muscle pain, cold hands and feet, and vomiting.
Ludwig’s Angina is a rare infection affecting the floor of the mouth. Bacteria from the abscessed tooth spread to that location and require antibiotics and possibly other treatments. Symptoms can include tenderness or pain in the area under the tongue, redness or swelling in the neck, ear pain, fever, chills, confusion, or fatigue.
Let Stiles Dental Care Help You Prevent Tooth Infections
Practicing good oral hygiene, including regular dental cleanings and exams, is a step in the right direction for protecting your teeth from infection. When they do occur, however, Stiles Dental Care can make a quick diagnosis and provide immediate treatment that is beneficial to your health.
If you suspect you are experiencing a tooth infection, or require any other dental attention, call Dr. Stiles and his team today for a consultation or exam.