[This original blog post is from February 19, 2019. It has been updated on June 17, 2022 for clarity]
Are you suffering from a debilitating toothache? Maybe you’ve noticed your gum or jaw are swollen, or that your tooth changed color. Is it hard to open your mouth, or are you experiencing bad breath/sour taste in your mouth? It could be a serious tooth infection.
Your teeth are packed with nerves. That’s why a toothache, though it may only affect one part of your mouth, is excruciating. What’s more, the pain may sometimes be related to a deeper oral health issue.
Read this blog to discover 13 ways to tell if you’re living with an infected tooth. Remember to contact your dentist as soon as possible if you believe you have a tooth infection or abscess.
What is a Tooth Abscess?
A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that can be located visibility on the surface of your gums/teeth, or beneath the surface. It is caused by a bacterial infection and needs to be treated as soon as possible. A tooth abscess will not go away on its own.
Untreated tooth infections and tooth abscesses can lead to life-threatening conditions, as it’s possible for the infection to spread to your blood and body, causing painful symptoms. Without treatment, you also risk losing the tooth.
13 Symptoms of a Tooth Infection
Below are some tell-tale signs of a tooth infection or tooth abscess.
1. Extreme sensitivity to hot, cold, sugary, or acidic foods
2. Change in tooth color
3. Swelling of face, jaw, gums, or surrounding lymph nodes
4. Raised swelling around a tooth that may resemble a pimple
- This pimple can be either a tooth abscess or a gum boil. Both are infection-filled bumps that contain pus and bacteria.
5. Bad breath or sour taste in your mouth
6. Draining or leaking sore on the gum or near the tooth
7. Difficulty moving jaw and opening mouth
- You may find it difficult to speak, eat, or go about normal activities.
8. Pulsating or throbbing mouth pain
- As a tooth infection spreads, the swelling and bacteria put pressure on your jaw and gums, resulting in a throbbing sensation that is difficult to ignore.
9. The pain gets worse when you lie down
11. Accompanying earache
- A fever is a surefire way to tell that your body is fighting off an infection.
13. Feeling sick
- This can include bodily symptoms seemingly unrelated to tooth pain, such as body aches and flu-like symptoms.
Types of Tooth Infections & Abscesses
Periapical abscess: An abscess a the tip of your tooth’s root. It can be caused by a cracked tooth or cavity and spreads from the pulp inside of your tooth
Periodontal abscess: An abscess on your gum next to a tooth, caused by an infection that spreads to the bone and supporting tissues around your teeth.
Gingival abscess: An abscess resulting in an infection in your gums.
Causes of a Tooth Infection
Cavities and untreated decay
Excess of sugary or acidic foods
Broken or damaged dental work (ex. Fillings, crowns, root canals)
Weakened immune system
Mouth injury to teeth or gums
- A dry mouth causes an increased breeding ground for bacteria.
How to Cure a Tooth Infection
If you have signs and symptoms of a tooth infection, it is important to call your dentist as soon as possible. Dentists can help in a few ways, but remember that this infection will not go away on its own- treatment is necessary.
If you notice the symptoms go away, and you are no longer in pain, this does not mean the infection is gone. An infection can eventually kill the nerves that cause pain in your tooth, meaning you won’t feel it anymore. The infection is still present and can potentially spread to your body and damage the surrounding teeth and your gums.
- Root Canal
- A dentist or endodontist can perform a root canal, which is a procedure in which the infected pulp in your teeth is removed to prevent further infection.
- Your dentist may prescribe you antibiotics to help treat the infection. This can be a course of treatment before getting a root canal procedure. You may also be put on antibiotics after treatment to prevent the spread of further infection.
- Tooth Extraction
- If the tooth cannot be repaired, meaning the infection destroyed the tooth, roots, and pulp, your dentist might pull your tooth. After the infection is gone, it is recommended to get a dental implant to help prevent jaw deterioration due to lacking the support the tooth provides.
- Drain the Abscess
- A dentist can help get rid of an abscess by draining it. This often involves making a small incision, or cut, in your tooth to let the pus and infection come out.
A tooth infection or abscess will not go away on its own. If left untreated, it can spread to your body, causing flu-like symptoms. Your dentist can treat your infected tooth through treatments such as draining the pus, tooth extraction, antibiotics, or a root canal.
A tooth infection’s symptoms include pain radiating to your jaw, ears, head, and lymph nodes. You can experience bad breath or a sour taste in your mouth. Your infection may be accompanied by a fever- your body’s way of trying to fight it off. You may also notice a pimple on your gum or tooth, which if burst, can leak pus and bacteria. It may hurt to eat or drink hot and cold foods or even to open your mouth.
Even if your pain goes away, this does not mean the infection did. A tooth infection can kill the nerves that cause tooth pain, only spreading the infection further if left untreated.
Abington Center for Cosmetic & Family Dentistry is an experienced dentist near Scranton, PA. Dr. Charles Dennis is a licensed endodontist specializing in root canals and tooth infections. If you live in Clarks Summit or surrounding areas and believe you may have a tooth infection, contact our office using our contact form or call during business hours for an emergency dental appointment.