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Updated on December 14, 2022
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Symptoms of Tooth Infection Spreading to Body

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Signs & Causes of Tooth Infection Spreading to the Body

Tooth infections range from mild to severe. They begin with a toothache that worsens over time. Untreated tooth infections can spread to other parts of the body. They can result in life-threatening complications.

Tooth Infection Symptoms

Common symptoms of an infected tooth include:

  • Throbbing, severe pain in the tooth, mouth, or jaw
  • Constant or spontaneous mouth pain
  • Tooth pain caused by hot/cold foods and drinks
  • Swelling in the mouth near the affected tooth
  • Swelling of the face, cheeks, or neck
  • Bad breath and taste in the mouth
  • Swollen or tender lymph nodes
  • Fever (severe cases)

Tooth Infection Causes

Some common causes of tooth infections include:

1. Cavities

Plaque is a by-product of food particles and saliva. It contains cavity-causing bacteria that decay your teeth over time. Without intervention, the buildup can lead to cavities, gum recession, and bone loss. 

If a cavity becomes large enough, it will reach the nerve of a tooth. This process allows bacteria to accumulate deeper into the tooth. An infection will develop over time as the bacteria reach the nerves of the tooth.

The leading causes of tooth decay include:

  • Neglected oral care
  • Plaque buildup
  • A high-sugar diet

2. Dental Abscesses

A dental abscess can form when a cavity goes untreated. It’s the most common type of tooth infection.

A bacterial infection in the tooth’s soft pulp leads to a dental abscess. The abscess forms a collection of pus and bacteria around the infection.

Abscesses can burst on their own. The pain may diminish, but bacteria can still spread beyond the tooth. It’s essential to seek dental treatment to prevent infection.

3. Other Causes

Tooth damage allows bacteria to spread to deeper parts of the teeth, gums, or even the bloodstream. Bacterial spread can lead to infection. 

Additional risk factors for developing a tooth infection include:

  • A weakened immune system
  • Diabetes
  • Certain medications (like steroids)

Symptoms of Tooth Infection Spreading to the Body 

Without treatment, a tooth infection may spread to other parts of the body. 

Symptoms of a tooth infection spreading to the body include:

Feeling Unwell

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever 
  • Flushed skin
  • Sweating
  • Chills
  • Increased body temperature


  • Difficulty opening your mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Severe, painful swelling of the gums, cheek, or face


  • Darker urine
  • Less frequent urination

Other Symptoms

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased breathing rate (25+ breaths a minute)
  • Confusion, lightheadedness

Symptoms of Tooth Infection Spreading to the Brain

A dental abscess can travel to the brain. Once there, it can develop another abscess, known as a cerebral abscess. If the infection reaches your brain, it can be life-threatening.

A brain abscess, while rare, requires urgent treatment. Symptoms of a brain abscess include:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Visual changes
  • Body weakness on one side
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Personality changes
  • Going in and out of consciousness

Can a Tooth Infection Make You Sick?

Yes, an untreated tooth infection (abscess) can make you sick. It can severely impact your oral health, body, and brain. 

According to Dr. Nandita Lilly, one of NewMouth’s in-house dentists, “a dental abscess can be a life-threatening condition, and it is vital to seek medical help immediately.” 

When to See a Doctor

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: 

  • Noticeable pimple under the gums (collection of pus)
  • Swelling and inflammation near the affected tooth
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Loose tooth
  • Fever
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Sensitive teeth
  • A severe, throbbing toothache that doesn’t resolve
  • Swollen and painful lymph nodes in the neck
  • Pain when chewing or biting down

How Long Can a Tooth Infection Go Untreated?

An untreated tooth infection can spread through your body in several days, weeks or months. The time it takes depends on the person and the infection's stage.

You should schedule a dental appointment if you have a toothache. It’s best to catch an infection early. The longer you leave it, the more likely it is to be life-threatening.

Risks of not treating a tooth infection fast enough include:

  • Tooth loss
  • Infection of the blood vessels inside the sinuses
  • Bone infection surrounding the tooth
  • Sepsis
  • Brain abscess
  • Abscess at the back of the mouth
  • Difficulty breathing

How to Prevent a Tooth Infection

To prevent tooth infections and cavities, you should:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day 
  • Use fluoride toothpaste
  • Floss daily
  • Rinse with mouthwash before bed
  • Limit sugar intake
  • Get professional teeth cleanings and dental check-ups every 6 months

Treatment Options for Tooth Infections

Depending on the cause of the tooth infection, treatment may include:

Dental Abscess Treatment (Drainage)

Your dentist will make a small incision into your gums. They will drain the abscess to remove the bacteria, pus, and fluid from the gums. 

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. 

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. 

Root Canal Treatment 

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 has healed and no swelling is present, they will place a dental crown on top of the treated tooth.  


Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to reduce the infection and stop it from spreading. Antibiotics can be prescribed before, during, and after the incision and drainage procedure.

Antibiotics can help clear up the remaining infection. They don't cure abscesses on their own. 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, a minor dental surgery. It removes the tip of the tooth's root, known as the apex. 

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 Treatment

Sepsis occurs when the immune system overreacts to a blood infection. It can happen if you ignore a severe toothache.

Untreated sepsis can lead to septic shock. It causes your blood pressure to plummet, which puts you at risk for organ failure and death.

You’ll need to visit the intensive care unit (ICU) if you develop sepsis. Your doctors will use fluids and IV antibiotics to treat sepsis. You may need additional treatments if you have severe organ damage.

Last updated on December 14, 2022
11 Sources Cited
Last updated on December 14, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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