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Tooth Infection Spreading – Symptoms & Complications

Excerpt: If you have an oral infection, you will want to get it treated as soon as you can...
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Oral Infections

Oral infections can result in serious pain, discomfort, bleeding, and other significant negative outcomes.

If you have an oral infection, you will want to get it treated as soon as you can, even in the onset when the symptoms are mild. The earlier an infection is treated, the easier it is to cure. If you allow an infection to persist, it can potentially spread throughout the entire body and it can even be fatal!

Tooth Infections – Causes & Types


When you eat food, the naturally-occurring bacteria in your mouth also digest food. However, when the bacteria digest food, they produce a substance called plaque. Plaque is a colorless, sticky film that adheres to the teeth. If it is not cleaned in time, eventually it will harden into tartar (calculus). Eventually, plaque and tartar buildup can lead to cavities. Cavities will eat away at your enamel and will infect the inner pulp of your tooth. Even though most cavities are easy to prevent, as much as 92% of adults have cavities (dental caries) in their adult (permanent) teeth.

Dental Abscess

Cavities, if left untreated, can infect the inner part of your teeth. If you do get a cavity, you will want to avoid this at all costs. Once the infection has penetrated your tooth, it will attack the pulp, and nerves, and will eventually kill the tooth. Once the infection reaches the jawbone and gums it can result in a dental abscess. A dental abscess may result in complications like sepsis, this is a potentially fatal reaction from your body to an infection.


Trauma isn’t an infection, but it can result in infections. If the enamel of the tooth breaks, it will leave less protection for the tooth. Less protection means the tooth can be infected easier. Having good oral care, wearing protection when necessary, and eating a balanced diet will greatly help reduce your chances of trauma to your teeth. If you play physical sports, or you’re known to grind your teeth, you will want to invest money in a quality mouthguard, once you lose permanent teeth, they’re gone for good.

Tooth Infection Symptoms

Just because you experience these symptoms, you may not have an infection, but you will definitely want to pay attention. If these symptoms last for more than 24-48 hours, you will want to make a dentist appointment immediately, this also includes symptoms that appear to go away and come back again.

Symptoms Of A Spreading Tooth Infection

As mentioned before, if you have a cavity, get it treated. If it has resulted in a dental abscess, the abscess may burst on its own and you might think this is a positive sign. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean the infection has gone away.
Some signs of a tooth infection spreading include: 
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Skin flushing
  • Sweating/chills
  • Face swelling, which can make it difficult to open your mouth, swallow, and breathe correctly
  • Severe and painful gum swelling
  • Dehydration, leading to darker urine and less frequent urination
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Increased breathing rate (25+ breaths a minute)
  • Increased body temperature
  • Stomach pain, diarrhea, and/or vomiting

Can A Toothache Make Me Sick?

The bacteria in your mouth that caused the infection can infect other parts of your general health making you sick. Typically, this is a more severe symptom of toothache. The infection will have to be bad enough to advance past the tooth and into the jaw bone and gum line. If this happens you should immediately consider it an emergency.

When To Start Worrying About A Tooth Infection

Any type of pain or discomfort should make you take notice of your oral health. If something is causing you pain, it is your body’s way of telling you something is definitely not right. If the pain or discomfort of any kind lasts for longer than 24-48 hours, you need to make an appointment.

Severe tooth infection symptoms include:

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

Can I Wait To Treat A Tooth Infection?

If you know you have a tooth infection, or you think there might be something seriously wrong with your teeth, you should never wait for any amount of time. If you are exhibiting painful oral symptoms a dental clinic may even do their best to book you in as an emergency patient. This will give you priority status and they will do their best to treat your issue as soon as possible.

If you wait to treat an infection, it could result in:

  • Tooth loss
  • Infection of the blood vessels inside the sinuses
  • Bone infection surrounding the tooth
  • Sepsis (a serious medical condition where the immune system overreacts to a blood infection)
  • Brain abscess (rare, life-threatening infection)
  • Parapharyngeal abscess (abscess at the back of the mouth)

Oral pain can be one of the most painful experiences a person can go through, so your entire life may be impacted by the toothache before serious symptoms even began.

When Is A Tooth Infection Considered An Emergency?

If the infection is causing you serious pain, or even preventing you from doing daily activities like eating, sleeping, or talking, you should consider it an emergency situation. More pain is never a sign of healing, tooth infections will not get better on their own either.

Tooth Infection Treatment Options

Root Canal Therapy (RCT)

If the inner part of the tooth has been infected, this will be the preferred treatment option. Root canal therapy will clear out all the inner structures of the tooth, freeing it from infection while saving the tooth and preventing the spread of the infection. After RCT, you will likely get a crown inserted onto the tooth. The crown will help reinforce the restored tooth and cover the hole which was created by the drill.

Dental Abscess Drainage

If you do have an abscess in your gums, the dentist may want to drain it to relieve you of some of the pain and discomfort. This procedure can also help cure the infection.


Antibiotics are used to fight bacterial infections. This strategy can also help to slow down and fight the infection after drainage. If the dentist tells you to take antibiotics, make sure you do so, even if the symptoms have completely gone away. If you stop taking these prematurely, it could result in an even stronger infection.


In some cases, you may have RCT, but you might still be experiencing a toothache. If this is the case, an apicoectomy might be required, this involves removing the tip of the root of the tooth.
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