What Happens If a Tooth Infection Goes Untreated?

untreated tooth infection - woman in dental office with toothache

What Happens If a Tooth Infection Goes Untreated?

If you’ve been experiencing a constant toothache, your tooth could be infected. You may be tempted to put off having it checked out due to a fear of the dentist or a busy schedule, but you should never ignore tooth pain. Letting a tooth infection go untreated can have serious consequences for your oral health and your overall health. Here’s what can happen if you don’t see a dentist right away. 

How Long Can a Tooth Infection Go Untreated?

Without treatment, a tooth infection causes pain, swelling, and inflammation around the affected tooth. It can quickly lead to the formation of a dental abscess, which is a painful pocket of pus at the root of the tooth. 

A dental abscess can only go untreated for a few weeks before the symptoms get worse. Waiting to treat the infection also increases the risk of losing the tooth, as the tooth and its root can become severely weakened.

Plus, the longer you wait to get treatment, the higher the risk that the infection will spread. Your gums, jawbone, and other parts of your mouth can all become infected. The infection can even enter your bloodstream and threaten vital organs like the heart or brain. 

Eight Signs of a Tooth Infection

If you notice any of the following symptoms of a tooth infection, contact your dentist immediately for treatment:

  1. Pain when biting or chewing
  2. Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
  3. Persistent bad breath
  4. Bitter taste in the mouth
  5. Swelling of the gums
  6. The appearance of a pimple on your gums
  7. Swollen jaw
  8. Fever

What Causes Tooth Infections?

When infectious bacteria are able to reach the pulp and nerves inside the root of a tooth, it causes a tooth infection. Bacteria can find their way inside a tooth through the deep cavities formed by tooth decay, or through chips or cracks in the tooth. But no matter what type of damage led to the infection, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible. 

How Is a Tooth Infection Treated?

Treatment for a tooth infection depends on the severity of the individual case. For instance, a dentist can often treat small abscesses by making an incision and draining the pus, which removes the infection. 

If the infection is more severe, a root canal procedure may be necessary. Root canals have a bad reputation, but they are actually just as painless as getting a filling or a crown. You’ll receive a local anesthetic to numb the area, while the dentist makes a small hole in your tooth and removes the infection from the root canal. Then the tooth is sealed back up, and a crown is placed over the tooth to protect it. 

In extreme cases where the tooth cannot be saved, you might need a tooth extraction. You will likely receive general anesthesia so that you are asleep and feel no pain while your dentist removes the infected tooth. 

No matter the type of treatment you receive, you will probably also need to take a course of antibiotics to prevent the infection from spreading. Let your dentist know about any allergies you have or medications you are taking so they can prescribe the most effective antibiotic possible.

Treatment for Tooth Pain in Prescott, Arizona

Never let a tooth infection go untreated! The compassionate team at Prescott Dentistry will determine the best way to relieve your pain and stop the infection from spreading. From root canals to oral surgery, treating tooth infections is what we do. Give us a call at 928-445-1660 today to make an appointment. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (2/28/2023). Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels