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Can a tooth infection be lethal?

A tooth infection, or an abscessed tooth, is a bacterial infection of the gums or teeth. When this infection is left untreated, a pocket of pus can develop, leading to various dental problems. This infection often causes pain, and may lead to tooth loss, heart complications, brain infection, and sometimes, even death.

Signs and Symptoms of a Tooth Infection

Sometimes tooth decay can take a few months to reach the core of the tooth, and this process may be accelerated if the tooth is chipped or cracked. When this happens, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Swelling and redness around the tooth
  • Open sore or bump on the side of the gums
  • Bitter taste
  • Fever

An abscessed tooth typically begins as a treatable issue, such as gum disease or a cavity. When these problems are left untreated for weeks or months, they can become infected. When this happens, the surrounding gum becomes inflamed, leading to the bone surrounding the tooth to die, which can eventually lead to the removal of the tooth.

Risk Factors

Leaving an infected tooth untreated can lead to various health complications. If you have any of the underlying conditions, you may be more susceptible to tooth infections:

  • Older age
  • Immunocompromised
  • Diabetes

If left untreated, the patient may develop heart, sinus, or brain damage.

How Can My Tooth Infection Cause Death

If your tooth infection is left untreated, it can lead to endocarditis or sepsis. Endocarditis is when bacteria enter the heart and begin to grow, inflaming the inner lining of your heart, leading to permanent heart damage. Sepsis is a result of the infection spreading to the brain. Because the brain is located close to the teeth, the pus-filled sinuses become an easy avenue for bacteria to travel through the veins to the brain. Ludwig’s Angina is generally treatable, but it can result in death if this infection goes untreated. Ludwig’s Angina occurs when a tooth abscess develops, and the infection occurs under the tongue. Death can occur when the patient begins to develop chest pain, troubled breathing, or a blocked airway.

When should I seek treatment?

You should seek immediate medical attention if you start to develop the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Trouble breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Problems eating, chewing, or swallowing
  • Swelling in the face (eyes or neck)
  • Difficulty speaking

What are the treatment options for an infected tooth?

If you find yourself with an infected tooth, some of the treatment routes available for you are:

  • Root Canal
  • Tooth Extraction
  • Antibiotics
  • Drainage

How to Prevent Tooth Infection

Brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day and limiting foods and drinks filled with sugar are great ways to keep your teeth and overall oral health in check. Regular dental cleanings and seeking immediate dental attention when developing severe tooth injury are also crucial in preventing tooth infections.

It is important not to wait until the pain becomes unbearable to seek treatment. If you notice any irregularity, seek an emergency dentist near you immediately.