Can A Tooth Infection Cause Other Major Health Problems?

Posted by Dr. John Paul Gallardo, DDS, PA
Can A Tooth Infection Cause Other Major Health Problems?
Thousands of people develop dental infections each year.

A tooth infection is caused by bacteria entering the tooth or gum tissue and can result in various health problems if not properly treated. This article will discuss how a tooth infection can lead to health problems and methods for prevention.

A Brief Overview Of Dental Infections

Thousands of people develop dental infections each year. In most cases, prompt treatment can result in complete recovery. However, a tooth infection can cause both oral health problems and other potentially serious medical issues when left untreated.

Causes of Dental infections

Also known as dental abscesses, tooth infections occur when a bacteria-laden pocket of pus forms 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.

Untreated cavities and infected teeth compromise the overall health of your mouth and lead to serious consequences. Poor oral hygiene practices, such as not brushing or flossing regularly, can increase the risk of developing dental infections.

Tooth Infection Symptoms

Symptoms may vary from person to person depending upon the location of the bacterial infection and the severity of the abscess. The most common symptoms include severe throbbing tooth pain, a discomfort that may spread to the jawbone or neck, extreme sensitivity to hot and cold exposure, difficulty biting or chewing, oral or facial swelling, bad breath, and elevated body temperature.

Dental Infections’ Risk Factors

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

A 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 mouths need to be especially careful to practice good oral health habits in order to prevent infection.

Tooth Infection Diagnosis

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.

Dental Infections Treatment Options

Proper treatment and medical attention are essential to resolving a dental infection. Treatment of tooth infections varies depending on the severity of the abscess.


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.

Dental Procedures

Following complete drainage and cleansing of the infected area, a dental professional will either perform a tooth extraction or a root canal treatment Miami, which involves the removal of the damaged tooth pulp and the sealing off of the root. 

Prescribe Antibiotics

Antibiotics will often be prescribed as a means of clearing away any lingering bacteria or, in the case of more significant infections, preventing their spread to other regions of the body.

Gallardo Periodontics offers different options for an infected tooth. Our specialist will evaluate your condition and perform the best dental procedure for you.
Effective treatment is essential to resolving a bacterial infection and preventing further complications.

The Impact of Untreated Dental Infections

In most cases, prompt treatment of an abscess will prevent any serious complications. However, untreated tooth infections can pose significant, potentially life-threatening health complications, including:

Heart Disease

Bacteria that spread beyond the oral cavity can make their way through the bloodstream and contribute to various heart problems. Bacteria can weaken coronary arteries and blood vessels, 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.

An untreated infection can also affect a person’s heart rate and breathing rate, putting further strain on their cardiovascular system and increasing the risk for heart disease. Treating tooth infections promptly prevents any serious health complications.

Gum Disease

Dental infections that are left untreated can result in a 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.

Ludwig’s Angina

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 interventions are often necessary to correct the problem.

Dental Cysts

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.

How to Know If a Tooth Infection Is Spreading to my Body?

It is important to recognize the warning signs that a severe infection is spreading since these can lead to potentially life-threatening medical emergencies. Taking appropriate preventive measures is necessary to avoid such complications.

Common symptoms include:

• Tenderness in the face or neck area

• Difficulty swallowing or speaking

• Swollen lymph nodes

• Stomach pain

• Fever or chills

• A feeling of fullness in the ear

• An altered taste in your mouth

• Difficulty breathing or wheezing

• Swelling around the eyes

If you suspect a severe dental infection, seek an emergency appointment with your dentist.

Preventing Dental Infections

The best way to avoid the potential health risks associated with dental infections is to practice good oral hygiene. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily, using an antibacterial mouthwash, and visiting a dentist regularly for check-ups and cleanings. It’s crucial to limit or avoid sugar intake, as this can contribute to tooth decay and ultimately lead to an infection.

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 such as root canal treatment for patients with oral health issues.

Dr. Gallardo can assess a patient’s condition and suggest the best possible dental 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 305-447-1447.