Tooth Infections: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Tooth infections, also known as dental abscesses, are common dental issues that can cause discomfort and, if left untreated, may lead to serious health complications. There are a number of symptoms that may indicate you have a tooth infection. Learning these signs and the possible causes of the infection can help you take the right action to treat and prevent them in the future.

What Are the Symptoms of a Tooth Infection?

A tooth infection can manifest in various ways, and the severity of symptoms may vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  1. Toothache: A persistent, throbbing pain is often the first sign of a tooth infection. The pain may worsen when you bite or apply pressure to the affected tooth.
  2. Sensitivity: Increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, or even sweet foods and drinks, is another common symptom. This sensitivity can be quite uncomfortable.
  3. Swelling: Swelling in the affected area of the face or jaw is a clear indication that something is wrong. In some cases, you might notice a pimple-like bump on the gums.
  4. Fever: As the infection spreads, you may develop a fever, accompanied by general discomfort and fatigue.
  5. Bad Taste or Odor: An unpleasant taste or odor in your mouth may develop due to the accumulation of pus from the infection.
  6. Difficulty Swallowing or Breathing: In severe cases, a tooth infection can lead to difficulty swallowing or breathing due to extensive swelling and discomfort.

What Are the Types and Possible Causes of Tooth Infections?

Tooth infections can be broadly categorized into two types: periapical abscesses and periodontal abscesses.

  1. Periapical Abscess: This type of infection occurs at the tip of the tooth’s root. It is often caused by untreated dental cavities that allow bacteria to penetrate the tooth and infect the pulp.
  2. Periodontal Abscess: This infection occurs in the gum tissues around the tooth. It can result from gum disease or injury to the gum pocket, allowing bacteria to thrive.

Possible causes of tooth infections include:

  • Untreated dental cavities
  • Gum disease (periodontitis)
  • Dental trauma or injury
  • Failed dental procedures
  • Weakened immune system
  • Poor oral hygiene practices

Can a Tooth Infection Go Away on Its Own?

It is rare for a tooth infection to resolve on its own without intervention. While your body’s immune system can help combat minor infections, dental abscesses typically require professional treatment. Ignoring a tooth infection can lead to complications, such as the infection spreading to surrounding tissues or even entering the bloodstream, potentially becoming life-threatening.

What Are Some Treatments for a Tooth Infection?

If you suspect a tooth infection, it is important to seek dental care promptly. Treatment options may include:

  1. Drainage: In most cases, your dentist will need to drain the abscess to remove the infection. This can involve a small incision to allow the pus to drain.
  2. Root Canal Therapy: For infections involving the tooth’s pulp, a root canal procedure may be necessary. This treatment removes the infected tissue and seals the tooth to prevent further infection.
  3. Antibiotics: Your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help eliminate the infection, especially if it has spread beyond the tooth.
  4. Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers or prescription medications can help manage pain and discomfort.
  5. Good Oral Hygiene: Maintaining proper oral hygiene practices is essential to prevent future infections. Regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups are key.

How Long Can a Tooth Infection Go Untreated?

It is essential not to ignore a tooth infection, as it can have serious consequences if left untreated. The infection can progress and potentially lead to:

  • Spread of Infection: The infection can extend to surrounding tissues, causing more pain and complications.
  • Abscess Burst: In some cases, an untreated abscess can burst, releasing pus into the mouth. This can provide temporary relief but doesn’t resolve the underlying issue.
  • Systemic Infection: If the infection spreads through the bloodstream, it can affect other parts of the body, posing a significant health risk.
  • Tooth Loss: Untreated infections can lead to irreparable damage, necessitating tooth extraction.
  • Facial Swelling: As mentioned earlier, extensive swelling can occur, affecting your ability to swallow or breathe.

Tooth infections should not be taken lightly. Recognizing the symptoms of a tooth infection and seeking professional dental care are essential steps in preventing complications. Early treatment and preventive measures are key to a healthier smile and overall well-being.

The experts at Newtown Dentistry have written an eBook on preventing cavities—one of the most common causes of tooth infections. Get your free copy here. And if you or a family member is experiencing symptoms of a tooth infection or a dental emergency, please schedule your appointment now or call us anytime at (215) 774-5496.


    Newtown Dentistry

  • DATE

    October 30, 2023


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