Tooth pain is never good a thing, but it may be more serious than you think. Tooth infections arise when the nerves within your tooth die due to progressing decay or injury. Without treatment, bacteria can infect the dead tooth and cause dental abscesses. This can lead to swelling and infections, which can occasionally be life threatening. However, the sooner you can treat your root canal infection, the sooner you can return to full oral and physical health.
Unchecked, hidden dangers put your oral health at risk. Threats such as tooth infections can lead to severe pain, loss of teeth, and serious health implications.
What causes a tooth infection?
The Canadian Dental Association says that most tooth infections are a result of untreated decay or cracked teeth. In either circumstance, when bacteria penetrates through your tooth’s enamel, it can cause an abscess. Tooth infections can also be a result of gum infection, as seen in some cases where gum diseases are present. If you experience bleeding when flossing or brushing your teeth, it may be a sign that there is an underlying dental problem.
You may be at higher risk for tooth infections if you consume a high-sugar diet. Sugary foods create a plaque buildup that produces an acidity that will eventually eat away at the enamel on your teeth, making them more susceptible to cavities or abscesses.
Tip: If you’re suffering from pain or have an infection, see your dentist sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more complicated the infection will get.
Seven signs of a tooth infection:
1. Persistent and recurring toothaches
If you are feeling severe pain in your teeth, it’s a good idea to go to the dentist to get an x-ray. Your pain may be resulting from a sinus infection or a tooth injury, however if the pain continues for more than a week, it may be a cavity. The toothache can worsen and spread to your jawline if not caught in enough time.
2. Pain or sensitivity to any food or drink that’s hot or cold
According to the Ontario Dental Association, when a cavity penetrates its way down to the dentin of your teeth, this creates a breeding ground for infection to form from acidic, cold, hot, sticky, or sweet foods.
3. General sensitivity/jolts of pain
There are two reasons you’ll feel sensitivity:
- The pulp within your tooth is inflamed
- You may have a cracked tooth
Whether the pain is coming from a cracked tooth or infected tooth pulp, it’s best to see a dentist right away for a diagnosis or x-rays. If left untreated, it may lead to tooth extractions or root canals.
If you’re not having cold or flu like symptoms, but are encountering fever-like symptoms, book an appointment with your dentist to learn if the fever is indeed a result of a tooth infection. A fever is the result of your body trying to fight off the infection, and can usually be treated with an antibiotic.
5. Swelling and tender lymph nodes
Swollen lymph nodes are caused when your teeth are exposed to too much bacteria. If you’re noticing swelling in your neck and/or jaw line it’s best to consult with your doctor or dentist for the appropriate plan of action.
6. Seeing holes or deep pits within the teeth
When a cavity or infection starts to form, it starts off as a small white spot on the surface of your tooth. When the infection gets worse, you’ll begin to see holes or deep pits (which normally aren’t visible to the naked eye). If you can see these holes/pits, the infection is more far-gone than you may have realized. It’s recommended to see a dental professional immediately.
7. Deeply stained teeth
Yes… red wine, coffee, and dark, sugary drinks can all stain your teeth. However, if you notice a discoloured spot (normally a different colour from your other teeth), it can be a sign of an infection. The discolouration may be because the enamel or dentin are being affected by the infection.
Tooth Infection Prevention
Tooth infections are often caused by a smaller dental problem that escalates into an infection. By maintaining good oral hygiene and dental habits, you can help prevent infections.
- Brush and floss at least twice a day to remove plaque and bacteria build up.
- Regular visits to the dentist where they’ll use x-rays to locate potential cavities, spots, and issues before they become infections.
- Use an antimicrobial mouth rinse (in combination with regular brushing and flossing) to help reduce the bacteria and plaque build-up in your mouth.
- Eat healthy foods that are high in protein and calcium that promote healthy teeth. Limit sugary foods and in-between meal snacks.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or when the bristles begin to look frayed.
By practicing good oral hygiene habits, you can help protect your smile from the harmful decay and bacteria that are responsible for painful infections. If you’re encountering any of these signs, it’s best to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent the risk of the pain and infection getting worse.
A version of this post was first published on Altima Dental Blog