What Can Happen if a Tooth Infection is Left Untreated

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What Can Happen if a Tooth Infection is Left Untreated

Can a tooth infection be dangerous?

If a tooth infection is left to its own devices, without treatment it can lead to serious, sometimes dangerous infections. This is why oral hygiene is so important and why if you are having any symptoms of an infected tooth/abscess you should set up a dental exam with one of our offices, in the GTA or at our convenient downtown College Street dentistry office, immediately. In this post we’ll discuss signs you may have a tooth infection and the serious consequences you may suffer if you don’t seek timely treatment.

What are some signs of an infected tooth

Signs of an infection in the mouth include:

  • Bad breath
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Fever
  • Pain
  • Sensitivity of the teeth to hot or cold
  • Swelling of the gum
  • Swollen glands of the neck
  • Swelling in the jaw

Can a tooth infection kill you?

With regular dental care, the answer is probably not, but if an abscess is left untreated it can and does happen. In fact, according to a Journal of Endodontics report, in a study of 61,439 hospitalizations that occurred because of tooth abscesses, 66 patients died as a result of their tooth infection.

According to the Mayo Clinic, in many cases, tooth abscesses are caused by untreated cavities. It’s important to practice good oral hygiene and have regular dental check-ups so any issues are caught early before they can develop into something far more serious.

Can a tooth infection go septic?

Yes! One thing that surprises many patients is how quickly an infection can worsen, affecting their overall health. Sepsis, a blood infection, is an overall body response to a threatening and deadly infection. Sepsis kills and disables millions of people each year and is quite serious. In fact according to an article in Men’s Health, an otherwise healthy 26 year old male received dental treatment for an abscess too late and died when the infection spread to his bloodstream. 

How does an infected tooth lead to sepsis?

According to sepsis.org, infections can develop anywhere in your mouth – in the gums (periodontal), lips, palate, cheeks, and tongue, or within and below teeth (endodontic). A dental infection, within or below a tooth, caused by tooth decay or a broken tooth may cause the pulp to become infected. The pulp contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and large nerves. When an infection occurs, bacteria can move out of the tooth, spreading to the bone or tissue below, forming a dental abscess. This can lead to sepsis.

As already mentioned above, sepsis requires early diagnosis and treatment for survival.

What are symptoms of sepsis?

Watch for a high fever and rapid heart rate, common symptoms of sepsis. Difficulty breathing may also occur. Disorientation and mottled skin are signs that sepsis is progressing. Early diagnosis and treatment are keys to survival. 

Can a tooth infection affect the brain?

Yes. Tooth abscess can also lead to life-threatening meningitis– a condition that causes inflammation of the membranes near the spinal cord and brain. Again, this occurs if the bacterial infection is left untreated, and it moves to the bloodstream, spreading to the spinal cord and around the brain. Those with compromised immune systems have a higher risk of developing this condition.

What are some other dangers with tooth infection?

Another condition that may develop with an uncontrolled bacterial infection spreads to the throat is called Ludwig’s Angina. As explained on Healthline.com, Ludwig’s angina is a rare skin infection that occurs on the floor of the mouth, underneath the tongue. This bacterial infection often occurs after a tooth abscess, which is a collection of pus in the center of a tooth. It can also follow other mouth infections or injuries. This infection is more common in adults than children. Usually, people who get prompt treatment recover fully though if left untreated it can cause extreme swelling of the airway, leading to suffocation. Common symptoms include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Trouble speaking
  • Neck and ear pain
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue

Ludwig’s Angina can be treated with antibiotics to clear the bacteria causing the issue. 

How should I treat a tooth infection?

If you exhibit symptoms of an infected tooth, visit a dentist immediately. As with all infections, an infection in your mouth should be treated as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of complications, including sepsis. Do not wait for bacteria to spread to your jaw, neck, blood, or brain.

Salt water mouth rinses while waiting to see your dentist may ease the pain or discomfort. If you have a tooth abscess, your dentist may treat it by draining it, performing a root canal on the tooth, or pulling the tooth. Antibiotics are often necessary, as well.

The aim of this post is not to scare you but to educate on the realities that can happen when an infection is left untreated and abscess occurs, and why it is so important to contact your dentist if you suspect infection. Be aware that a cavity can turn to an abscess which can then become a life-threatening situation, and no one wants that. Stay ahead of the game and maintain good oral hygiene and come see us at one of our GTA locations or at our College Street dental office, downtown for regular check-ups or if you suspect infection.