A tooth infection is a painful condition that can damage your teeth, jaw, and even other parts of your mouth and face. This is a dangerous condition that can also spread and worsen if it isn’t resolved. However, there are other conditions that are similar to a tooth infection, but aren’t. If you’re wondering if your tooth is infected or if the abscess is spreading, here’s how to tell.
How Do You Know if a Tooth Is Infected?
A tooth infection, sometimes called a tooth abscess, occurs when bacteria invade a tooth. This might occur if a tooth has a cavity—a small hole where bacteria have produced acids and eaten through the enamel. Or, if a tooth is cracked or chipped, bacteria can also invade. For that reason, if you have an untreated cavity, or your tooth is cracked or chipped, you have a higher risk of getting a tooth infection.
There are a few other signs of a tooth infection to keep in mind. If you’re not sure, look for the following:
- Tooth discoloration: if parts of your tooth look brown, black, or dark yellow, you may have a tooth infection.
- Gum discoloration: if your gums are darker red than normal, or otherwise discolored, it’s a sign of infection.
- Bad taste or bad breath: a tooth infection creates pus, which will leave a bad taste in your mouth, and will also cause persistent bad breath.
- Pain or Swelling: with a tooth infection, you’re likely to feel pain in your gums, jawbone, or even your sinuses, depending on placement. You may also notice your gums or cheeks swelling.
- Abscess: if you have an abscess, a small bump will form on your gums. Sometimes, an abscess can form around the tooth root, so it won’t be visible.
How Do You Know If a Tooth Abscess is Spreading?
As we know, bacteria multiplies and spreads. This means a tooth infection can also spread. But how do you know if a tooth abscess is spreading?
First, it’s important to know that a tooth infection is not limited to teeth alone. An infection can invade any part of the body. An existing infection can also easily spread to any part of the body. Usually, infections spread to other, nearby structures. In the case of a tooth abscess, it can spread to your other teeth, gums, tongue, throat, jawbone, sinuses, even your eyes and brain. If a tooth infection spreads to the brain, it can be deadly. Pew Charitable Trusts found that preventable dental conditions, like tooth infections, were the primary reason for 830,590 emergency hospital visits by Americans in 2009. This shows how serious untreated dental problems can be.
If a tooth abscess is not treated, it is likely to spread. You might notice more discoloration in your gums or teeth if the infection is spreading. You might also notice the bad taste in your mouth or bad breath worsening. Finally, the infection will cause pain. You might notice the pain, swelling, or redness spreading to other areas. If the tooth abscess has spread to a jawbone infection, you may notice more pain and swelling around your jaw and chin, as well as redness or pus. Finally, if the infection becomes severe, you will probably experience tiredness, lack of appetite, fever and other signs of illness.
How to Treat a Tooth Infection
If you think you have a tooth infection, see your dentist or doctor immediately. An untreated tooth abscess can result in serious problems and more extensive infection. The longer an infection goes untreated, the more difficult it will be to treat.
A tooth infection can be treated with antibiotics. However, the infected tooth may also need to be removed, or the infection will return. This may require an emergency tooth extraction, as well as antibiotics. In some cases, the tooth can be saved with a root canal procedure. Or, the tooth might also be saved by simply filling a cavity or capping a cracked or chipped tooth.
Your dentist can diagnose a tooth infection and give you the best treatment options. If you notice any of the signs previously mentioned, or if your tooth is cracked, chipped, or weakened, see your dentist as soon as possible. Resolving a tooth infection quickly will keep the problem from getting worse.