Are you considering putting off a visit to the dentist? You may want to rethink that! Waiting until a toothache is unbearable can lead to a more expensive and complex dental treatment. The pain could be from an infected tooth. Most tooth infections are the result of tooth decay or broken teeth.
What is an infected tooth
An infected tooth can quickly turn into an abscess, which is when the infection spreads to the root of a tooth. There are two types of dental abscess that form: periodontal (gum) abscess which is an infection between the tooth and gum, and periapical (tooth) abscess which is an infection inside the tooth-first stemming from the root of the tooth and spreading through the bone.
Often a periodontal abscess occurs due to infection that is already present in the gums, or due to not properly flossing to clean out the food between the teeth and gums. A periapical abscess occurs when the root of a tooth is dying or dead, and spreads to the bone surrounding the area.
Symptoms and causes of an infected tooth
The most common cause of an infected tooth is untreated tooth decay. Broken and/or missing teeth can be exposed to harmful bacteria in the mouth, also leading to a tooth infection.
The first and most common symptom of an infected tooth is a sore or throbbing tooth. Other symptoms of a tooth infection include:
- Pimple (pocket of pus) on the gums
- Sensitivity to hot or cold
- Pressure-related sensitivity
- Swelling of the cheeks
- Pain when you chew
- Jaw pain
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck
An infection from an abscessed tooth can spread to the brain, heart, face and jaw. In rare and severe cases dental infections can lead to death. Waiting to visit the dentist is never a good idea, some problems just can’t wait.
Infected wisdom teeth
Wisdom teeth, your third set of molars, can become infected for a number of reasons. There’s typically not enough space in the mouth and jaw for wisdom teeth to erupt properly. Many people opt to have them removed before they cause problems. Problems associated with wisdom teeth include:
- Growing in sideways
- Emerging only partially (Impacted)
- Getting trapped beneath the gum and bone
These factors contribute to wisdom tooth infections also known as pericoronitis. The symptoms of pericoronitis are the same as any other tooth infection but treating the infection is a little different. In treating a wisdom tooth infection, your dentist or oral surgeon may suggest a saltwater rinse or prescribe antibiotics to alleviate the pain. However, to fully treat the infection and prevent future complications the wisdom teeth will have to be removed.
How to prevent a tooth infection
You can prevent a tooth infection with a good dental hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing daily helps remove any left-over food particles that can collect bacteria and cause an infection or gum disease.
Protect your teeth with a mouth guard while playing sports to prevent chipped and broken teeth. Another way to prevent a tooth infection is to visit the dentist every six months to receive a proper examination and dental cleaning. Ignoring oral health concerns like gum disease can also lead to a tooth infection.
Tooth infection treatment
Treatment of an infected tooth is dependent on the severity of the issue. The methods for treating a tooth infection include:
- professional drainage
- a root canal
- tooth extraction
It is important to note that a tooth infection is a serious dental condition and cannot be treated at home.
While over-the-counter pain killers such as Tylenol or Advil help alleviate the pain, they do not cure the infection. Also, a tooth infection does not go away on its own. Home remedies are not recommended and should be discussed with your dentist first to avoid worsening the infection.
It is important to see a dentist right away when a tooth experiences trauma like a crack, chip or loss of an adult tooth. Delaying treatment with this sort of trauma can cause infection in a tooth. An abscess that goes without being treated can lead to tooth loss.
Your dentist can signal if there are any oral health concerns that need immediate attention. We accept walk-in patients to accommodate your emergency dental needs.