- Published Date: 07 Oct 2020
- Updated Date: 22 Mar 2021
- Reading Time: 5 min
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Emily Hubis D.M.D
A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that forms as a result of a bacterial infection. When left untreated, abscessed teeth not only cause problems for your general oral health, but they could have serious repercussions. An abscess is a result of an infection, if left unattended for long it can reach other parts of the body through the bloodstream. Fortunately, with proper treatment and dental care, you can avoid this altogether. One of the best ways to prevent abscessed teeth is to stay on top of your dental care. Visit a dentist regularly especially if you have a toothache or symptoms of pain and swelling.
What are abscessed teeth?
Severe tooth decay needs to be treated otherwise it can result in infection of the surrounding tissues. This unaddressed oral infection can lead to a pocket of pus forming at the apex or root of a tooth which, is known as an abscessed tooth. The symptoms to look out for as a warning sign are mainly associated with a nasty toothache. Here are some of the common symptoms of abscessed teeth if left untreated:
- Intense throbbing in teeth and gums
- Difficulty chewing or biting
- Sensitive teeth
- Swollen neck glands
- Red or swollen gums, possibly with sores
- Swollen jaw
- Bitter taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
These symptoms result from the bacteria entering the dental pulp which is the innermost part of the tooth containing blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissue. If not caught early the bacteria can spread to adjacent structures leading to worse problems.
What are the repercussions of abscessed teeth?
Any bacterial infection in the body is a potential threat to the overall wellbeing. The development of an infection severe enough to cause abscessed teeth could pose risks to the rest of your body as well. The spread of an infection from the oral cavity could result in the bacteria entering the bloodstream or digestive tract. Hence, if left untreated for too long abscessed teeth could lead to bacteremia.
As the infection begins in the mouth this could result in infected gums which can eventually lead to a damaged jaw bone. If you have a damaged or infected jaw, this could cause teeth to fall out. Tooth loss however treatable does have its own risks and repercussions therefore, it is important to make sure you seek treatment for an infected tooth before this could affect the alignment of your jaw, or spread to other teeth, or could cause eating and digestive problems.
An oral infection also has the potential to spread upwards to your sinuses. This could lead to a sinus infection called sinusitis. This is an unpleasant condition causing symptoms such as congestion and runny nose. You might have this problem prevailing for several weeks.
One of the more serious repercussions of abscessed teeth is bacterial endocarditis. It can occur if the micro organisms present in the pocket of pus spread to the heart. This condition affects the normal functioning of your heart valves which help to pump blood around your body. Bacterial endocarditis is a potentially fatal condition. In order to avoid falling prey to such serious health complications it is advisable to visit a dentist promptly.
Moreover, abscessed teeth can also potentially cause a condition called Ludwig’s angina which occurs when infection spreads to other structures of the face including the jaw. The symptoms of Ludwig’s angina consist of swelling of the tongue, neck pain, fever etc and can even lead to respiratory distress. If left untreated, it could result in airway blockage or sepsis. A blocked airway needs immediate medical intervention. Either way, any and all symptoms of Ludwig’s angina need to be treated right away.
In extreme cases, the infection from abscessed teeth could spread to the brain through the bloodstream and result in a brain abscess. If left undiagnosed, this could even lead to a coma. Luckily, these more serious repercussions are rare, but they can still occur if abscessed teeth aren’t dealt with. With an abscessed tooth, if you experience the following symptoms, it warrants a visit to the emergency room:
- High fever
- Swelling causing difficulty swallowing
- Rapid heartbeat
- Dizziness, fainting, or confusion
It’s important to remember that in the majority of cases, these repercussions only occur if abscessed teeth are untreated for a long time. It is absolutely vital to see a dentist or specialist for immediate treatment if you have any of the symptoms of tooth decay before it leads to an abscessed tooth. Even abscessed teeth themselves are completely treatable.
How are abscesses teeth treated?
Most abscesses need to be treated with a prescription antibiotic, then, if the tooth can be restored, the dentist might decide to do a root canal. This is a procedure involving the removal of the entire pulp of the tooth and the decay. If the abscessed tooth is decayed beyond repair, the dentist will perform an extraction, and the patient can be fitted with a dental implant as a replacement.
Sometimes, in order to treat a severely abscessed tooth, a qualified dentist will need to drain the infected area with the help of a small incision. The area will then be thoroughly cleaned with a saline solution.
How can you prevent abscessed teeth?
Conscientious dental care and attention to your oral health can help you prevent abscessed teeth. As described, they are a rather extreme result of tooth decay leading to severe infection. The best way to prevent this from happening is by seeing a dentist at the first signs of any toothache. When it comes to oral health it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry.
In fact, it’s recommended to visit a dentist for regular checkups anyway, even if you’re not experiencing any problems, this way they’ll be able to spot any irregularities and fix the problem earlier rather than later. If you pay for a private dentist, this could save a lot of money in the long run, so there’s no point in waiting for the situation to worsen, and having to undergo more expensive procedures.
Oral health and dental care tips
With adequate dental care you should be able to prevent tooth decay leading to more serious problems such as abscessed teeth. Here are some general oral health and dental care tips:
- Brush your teeth twice a day
This should be done for 2-3 minutes at a time using gentle circular motions, and a fluoride toothpaste. You could even invest in an electric toothbrush. Ideally,change your toothbrush every three months.
Floss once a day. This removes debris caught between your teeth that your toothbrush might miss. It also does wonders for your breath.
- Cut down on smoking
Smoking has a negative effect on your dental and oral health. By quitting or cutting down you’ll notice a remarkable difference. It is also a risk factor for gum disease and tooth staining.
- Cut down on sugary foods and drinks
Sugar is a major culprit for cavities, so try to cut down on things like soda, candy and even starchy foods. Starchy foods such as chips, bread and pasta in excess have even been linked to tooth decay.
- Drink more water
Instead of opting for a sugary drink, have water instead. Get into the habit of keeping yourself hydrated.
- Dental check ups
Don’t neglect your oral health and visit your dentist regularly. They will check for any early signs of problems so it’s a good idea to go at least once a year. If you feel anything unusual book an appointment with your dentist immediately.
Abscessed teeth are the result of a longstanding infection caused by untreated tooth decay.
That is why it is important to see a dentist. By staying on top of your oral health you should be able to keep harmful conditions like abscessed teeth at bay. Don’t forget about dental care because if neglected it can lead to further complications. If you would like any advice about the best dental care practices, it’s always a good idea to consult your dentist. They will be able to provide you with all the help you need. For more information about abscessed teeth and treatments, get in touch today.
Medically Reviewed by
Dr. Emily Hubis D.M.D