A tooth infection is a serious condition that can progress to the rest of your body if left untreated. For this reason, identifying the symptoms of a tooth infection and seeing your doctor as soon as possible is incredibly important.
If you’re worried that you have a tooth infection, then keep reading this guide from Flossy to find out six sure signs that you may have one. In addition, discover what causes a tooth infection, what puts you at risk for developing one, and how you can prevent one from developing in the first place.
Thanks to your immune system, your body is very good at fighting off bacterial infections. However, the one part that your body can’t protect is the teeth.
As such, when a bacterial infection begins to form in the teeth and gums, your body can’t do much to fight off the infection. As a result, you may experience pain and swelling around your tooth which a dentist must treat.
Sometimes, a tooth infection can lead to a tooth abscess, which is a “pocket” of pus. This can form in different places around the tooth. An abscess usually resembles a small white or red ball around the gums or teeth.
There are three types of infections that can lead to an abscess:
A periapical infection is the most common cause of an infected tooth. Fortunately, it can be prevented by practicing healthy lifestyle choices.
Bacteria cause most tooth infections. This bacteria can reach the innermost parts of the teeth and gums through openings caused by tooth decay.
While we all have bacteria in our mouths—which is part of our oral microbiome—an infection is caused by an imbalance between “good” and “bad” bacteria. When this imbalance is combined with other factors—such as decaying nerves or an accumulation of plaque—it can lead to an infection.
Any tooth can become infected since every tooth has nerve-rich tissue at its core. However, teeth that are damaged are much more susceptible to being infected. Those teeth with cavities, chips, and cracks or a history of trauma (even without visible damage) are more likely to become infected.
A tooth abscess will not go away on its own. While it can rupture and relieve some of the pain, it is still a bacterial infection that needs to be treated by a dentist.
If you delay treatment, you risk that the bone in your jaw may begin to dissolve, which can cause your tooth to become loose and fall out. In addition, the bacterial infection can spread to other parts of the mouth, the jaw, and even other parts of the body.
When the infection begins to spread beyond the tooth, you risk the following complications:
Once a tooth infection has spread to the rest of the body, you may experience symptoms beyond the teeth and gum areas.
In some cases, you may feel as if you were sick with the flu and exhibit symptoms such as fever, sweating, chills, fatigue, dizziness, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, and mental confusion. If this ever happens to you, treat it as a medical emergency and get help immediately.
Some people are more susceptible to a tooth infection than others. The following are some of the risk factors that increase your chances of developing a tooth infection:
Fortunately, these risk factors are mostly lifestyle-based and can be easily prevented. To limit your risk of a tooth infection, make sure to limit your consumption of sugary foods and beverages. In addition, practice consistent oral hygiene by brushing and flossing at least two times per day. Last, see your dentist for regular check-ups to ensure you are not developing tooth decay, such as cavities.
While an initial tooth infection may not have symptoms, many times, you can tell whether your tooth is infected. The following seven symptoms can indicate whether you have a tooth infection, so you can quickly schedule an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.
Any kind of pain around your tooth and gum area is a sure sign of an infection. Most often, you should feel either a gnawing or a throbbing pain around the infection site, which is consistent.
This can make it difficult for you to eat or sleep on the side where your tooth is infected. Sometimes, you may even find it hard to open your jaw.
Once the infection progresses, it can lead to swelling of your face, jaw, and lymph nodes. In some cases, the swelling may be mild and barely noticeable. In other cases, the swelling can become as big as a tennis ball, which will be extremely noticeable and uncomfortable.
If your infection has progressed to an abscess, then you may notice a small ball of pus-forming on your gums. This small ball is a collection of bacteria and various liquids. Because an abscess cannot form without bacterial infection, this is a sure sign that you’re experiencing one.
If an abscess begins to drain in your mouth, you may have a bad taste that can’t be explained by anything else. This taste can be salty, sour, or bitter. In addition, you may experience bad breath.
Because an infected tooth receives less oxygen and other nutrients from the body, it can eventually begin to decay. As a result, it may turn a color that is a grey or brown shade—in contrast to the rest of your teeth.
If the infection gets severe enough, it can progress to the rest of your body. In this case, you might feel as if you were sick and experience symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and nausea.
A tooth infection cannot be treated at home and must be addressed by a professional. That said, you can manage symptoms at home by applying a cold pack to the affected area and regularly rinsing with warm saltwater. You can also take pain-relieving medication while you wait to be treated.
Once you see your dentist, the first part of the treatment will usually involve diagnosis to make sure that you have a tooth infection and not another condition. Your dentist will likely perform an X-ray to determine the extent of the infection. If there’s any suspicion that the infection has spread to other parts of the body, your dentist may also perform a CT scan.
Once you have a confirmed infection, your dentist will proceed to treatment, which may include the following steps:
Many causes of tooth infection are lifestyle-based. Here are some of the things you can do to prevent your chances of developing one:
Adopting healthy lifestyle choices will go a long way in keeping your oral health in top shape and decreasing your chances of a tooth infection.
If you experience pain and swelling, have a bad taste in your mouth, and have symptoms of a fever, then it’s very likely that you have a tooth infection.
If that’s the case, it’s important to schedule a visit with a dentist as soon as possible. With Flossy, you can be sure that your tooth infection is treated quickly—all at a fraction of the cost of most other dentists.