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Common symptoms of a tooth infection include:
Without treatment, a tooth infection may spread to other body parts. Typically, it takes a few days to weeks for the infection to spread from the tooth to other body parts.
If your tooth infection is beginning to spread, you will likely feel generally unwell and present with specific symptoms.
Symptoms that a tooth infection has spread to other parts of the body include:
A dental abscess can travel to the brain. Once there, it can develop another abscess, known as a cerebral abscess.
If the infection has spread and reaches your brain, it can be life-threatening. A brain abscess, while rare, requires urgent medical treatment.
Symptoms of a brain abscess include:
If you suspect that you or your child may have a brain abscess, please seek medical treatment immediately.
Your doctor will perform an MRI or CT scan to make a diagnosis. If they find an abscess, they will likely perform other tests to determine its origin.
Another potential risk of neglecting a tooth infection is the possibility of it spreading to the mediastinum.
The mediastinum is the name of the chest cavity structure that holds your heart and other critical structures (like your trachea, esophagus, and thymus gland). It sits between your pleural cavities, which hold your lungs.
When bacteria from a tooth infection spread to the mediastinum, it can result in a condition known as mediastinitis.
Mediastinitis is a rare complication that can result from an untreated tooth infection. Without prompt treatment, it can quickly become life-threatening.
If you show signs of mediastinitis in conjunction with your tooth infection, please seek medical treatment immediately.
A tooth abscess that goes untreated for too long can spread to the blood, resulting in sepsis (blood infection). Sepsis is a serious, life-threatening condition; seeking emergency medical care is crucial.
Early symptoms of sepsis include:
Once you are septic, the condition can progress into septic shock within 12 to 24 hours. Septic shock causes your blood pressure to drop to a dangerously low level, which can result in death.
If you experience any of the above symptoms of sepsis, please seek emergency medical care immediately.
Although rare, cavernous sinus thrombosis is a life-threatening blood clot that can develop as a response to an untreated infection in the face or skull. The clot can develop in as few as five to 10 days from the onset of a dental abscess.
Cavernous sinus thrombosis occurs when the body detects the infection and attempts to prevent its spread by forming a blood clot in the head. However, in doing so, it traps the infection and prevents blood from flowing out of the brain.
Left untreated, cavernous sinus thrombosis can lead to confusion, sleepiness, coma, and eventual death. Although the condition is rare, it has a 33% fatality rate.
If you suspect that you have cavernous sinus thrombosis, please visit your local emergency room immediately.
Don't wait until your dental abscess ruptures to seek treatment. Visit the doctor promptly to prevent the spread of the infection.
Common symptoms of a dental infection that requires urgent treatment include:
You should schedule a dental appointment if you have a toothache or mouth swelling. It’s best to catch an infection early.
The longer you leave it, the more likely it is to become life-threatening.
A bacterial infection in the tooth’s soft pulp can lead to a dental abscess. A dental abscess is a collection of pus and bacteria that surrounds the infection.
Dental abscesses can burst on their own. The pain may diminish, but it can damage the gums, nerves, and surrounding tissue. Bacteria can also still spread beyond the tooth.
If you suspect you have an infected tooth, visiting your dentist as soon as possible is essential. It won’t go away by itself.
Early treatment will prevent the infection from developing further and spreading to other body parts.
There are different causes of a tooth infection.
Here are the most common ones:
If a cavity becomes large enough, it will reach the nerve of a tooth. This allows bacteria to accumulate deeper into the tooth. An infection will develop over time as the bacteria reach the bone surrounding the tooth.
The leading causes of tooth decay include:
Tooth damage allows bacteria to spread to deeper parts of the teeth, bone, or even the bloodstream. Bacterial spread can lead to infection.
Additional risk factors for developing a tooth infection include:
Practicing excellent oral hygiene at home and visiting the dentist regularly are the best ways to prevent tooth infections. The cleaner and healthier you keep your mouth, the less likely you are to develop problems.
Some suggestions for maintaining your oral hygiene include:
Depending on the cause of the tooth infection, treatment may include:
Your dentist will make a small incision into your gums. They will drain the abscess to remove the bacteria-containing pus from the gums.
Don’t attempt to drain an abscess yourself. You should never pop or squeeze an abscess. If you do so, the infection can go deeper into the tissues of your mouth and/or cause a secondary infection.
Extraction may be necessary for a severely damaged tooth. A possible treatment option for the missing tooth is to get a dental implant after surgery, which can cost up to $4,000.
If your cavity spreads to the tooth’s pulp, you may need a root canal. During the procedure, your dentist will remove the infected dental pulp. This treatment can also involve abscess draining.
Your dentist will clean, shape, and seal the root canal. Once the tooth heals and there is no swelling, they will likely place a dental crown on top of the treated tooth.
Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent the infection from spreading. Antibiotics can be prescribed before, during, and after the incision and drainage procedure.
Antibiotics can help clear up any remaining infection but don't cure abscesses. If the infection is severe, you may require IV antibiotics and hospitalization.
Sometimes, your toothache and infection may persist after a root canal. If so, you may need an apicoectomy, which is a minor dental surgery.
An apicoectomy involves a surgical incision at the root of the gums, drilling away a portion of the end of the tooth root. This procedure removes any infected tissue and seals the tooth from the root end.
Sepsis occurs when an infection spreads to the bloodstream. It can happen if you ignore a severe toothache.
If you develop sepsis, you must visit the intensive care unit (ICU). Your doctors will use fluids and IV antibiotics to treat sepsis. You may need additional treatments if you have severe organ damage.
Various factors can cause tooth infections. The best way to prevent a tooth infection is to care for your teeth properly.
If your tooth infection worsens or spreads, inform your doctor immediately. They will recommend an appropriate treatment plan to help you get better.
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