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Updated on May 19, 2023
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Symptoms of Tooth Infection Spreading to Body

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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)

Symptoms of Tooth Infection Spreading to the Body 

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

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

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.

How Does a Tooth Become Infected?

There are different causes of a tooth infection. Here are the most common ones:

1. Cavities

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 tooth's nerves.

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)

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 prevent the infection 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.

If you develop sepsis, you’ll need to 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 take care of 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.

Last updated on May 19, 2023
11 Sources Cited
Last updated on May 19, 2023
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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