Thousands of people develop dental infections each year. In most cases, prompt treatment can result in complete recovery. However, when left untreated, a tooth infection can cause both oral health problems and other potentially serious medical issues.
A Brief Overview Of Dental Infections
Also known as dental abscesses, tooth infections occur when bacteria-laden pus pockets form in a specific part of the mouth. There are two different types of dental abscesses: a periapical infection, which forms at the tip of a tooth’s root, and periodontal, which appears inside the gums or at the sides of the tooth root.
Symptoms may vary from person to person depending upon the location of the infection and the severity of the abscess. The most common symptoms include severe throbbing pain in the impacted tooth, a discomfort that may spread to the jawbone or neck, sensitivity to hot and cold exposure, difficulty biting or chewing, oral or facial swelling and elevated body temperature.
Several factors can increase one’s chances of developing a dental abscess including:
Poor Dental Hygiene
The most common cause of dental infections is poor oral health habits. Brushing at least twice per day, flossing, using mouthwash and getting regular dental checkups are key to preventing oral health issues like abscesses.
Weakened Immune System
People who have a compromised immune system caused by immune disorders or other serious illnesses can be at a higher risk of developing a tooth abscess.
High Sugar Diet
Sugar promotes tooth decay. People who consume excessive quantities of sugary food and drinks or eat a lot of starch may be more prone to dental infections.
Persistent Dry Mouth
Dry mouth often fosters bacterial overgrowth within the oral cavity that can lead to dental infections. The condition can result from certain medical conditions and medications. Patients with dry mouth need to be especially careful to practice good oral health habits in order to prevent infection.
Should a patient’s dentist suspect an abscess, they will perform a thorough oral examination and might use diagnostic tools like x-rays and computerized tomography (CT) scans to find the location of the infection and to determine how far the problem has spread.
The first therapeutic protocol typically involves incising the abscess to allow it to drain. To do this, the dental professional simply creates a small incision in the abscess. This allows the bacteria-filled pus to drain out, relieving pressure and releasing the infected material.
Following complete drainage and cleansing of the infected area, a dental professional will either extract the impacted tooth or perform a root canal, which involves the removal of the damaged tooth pulp and the sealing off of the root.
Antibiotics will often be prescribed as a means of clearing away any lingering bacteria or, in the case of more significant infections, prevent their spreading to other regions of the body.
The Impact of Untreated Dental Infections
In most cases, prompt treatment of an abscess will prevent any serious complications. However, if left untreated, dental infections can pose significant, potentially life-threatening health complications including:
Bacteria that spreads beyond the oral cavity can make its way through the bloodstream and influence various heart problems. Bacteria can weaken coronary arteries, resulting in the structures becoming damaged or narrow. Ultimately, these changes can lead to a heart attack.
Traveling bacteria can also impact other components of the heart. Occasionally, the bacteria can accumulate in and around the heart valves, which can damage them and result in serious health issues like heart failure.
Dental infections that are left untreated can result in permanent tooth and gum damage. Advanced periodontal disease can make simple activities such as talking or eating difficult. Chewing difficulties can ultimately lead to nutritional deficiencies and contribute to numerous medical problems. Moreover, lost or damaged teeth can affect a person’s smile, appearance, and self-esteem.
This is a rare type of infection impacting the bottom of the mouth, following the spread of bacteria from an abscess. Occasionally, the bacteria can spread into the throat resulting in potentially fatal breathing difficulties.
Infection To Surrounding Bones And Tissues
The bacteria contained in tooth abscesses can travel into surrounding tissues and bones over time, such as to the jaw and facial sinuses. When this occurs, antibiotics or even surgical intervention are often necessary to correct the problem.
Bacteria from dental abscesses can cause the development of cysts that often form at the base of the gums. These can be painful and may become infected themselves.
Contact Us For Tooth Infection Treatment
Individuals residing in South Florida who believe they might have a tooth abscess are urged to receive dental care as soon as possible. Dr. John Paul Gallardo, periodontist and founder of Gallardo Periodontics, Implant Dentistry and IV Sedation offers a wide range of treatments for patients with oral health issues.
Dr. Gallardo can assess a patient’s condition and suggest the best possible treatment options. Additionally, the experienced periodontist can perform other important procedures such as dental implants, gum treatments, cosmetic and hygienic treatments, and oral surgery. Dr. Gallardo’s office can be reached at (305)-547-8687.