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We presume no one wants to have cavities that can lead to a tooth infection and tooth decay. The problem is, even though we know the basics of oral hygiene, we do not practice them consistently. We take our dental health for granted, costing us not just our smile but also our whole positive disposition. We do not know the extent to how a simple tooth infection can affect our health. Can a tooth infection spread to other parts of the body? Is it possible to infect even our ears and cause other problems?


Tooth Infection And Tooth Abscess

Odontogenic infection, the medical term for tooth infection, starts from a simple plaque buildup or tartar rich in bacteria that succeeded in penetrating the insides of the tooth. An abscess is a painful infection that arises when bacteria gain access to the pulp tissues of the tooth. As you know, the pulp is the innermost part of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels reside, so infection in this area should get professional attention immediately.

bacteria in mouth


Bacteria: The Cause Of All Tooth Infection

Bacteria thriving in plaque buildup and cavities can get to it via the cracks on your tooth, issues with your dental crowns, leaking dental restorations, broken fillings, or through the lateral canal once gum recession progresses.

There are different types of bacteria that you may find in the mouth, and the ones that decay teeth may be different from the ones that produce abscesses. A decayed tooth simply provides favorable conditions for the bacteria to thrive and infect more and more parts of your tooth so they can multiply and spread.


Can A Tooth Infection Spread: How The Body Reacts

The body’s response to foreign invaders like the nasty bacteria is to increase the blood flow in the tooth to deliver white blood cells. These specialized cells serve as first-aides and soldiers of the body, fighting the bacteria before it spreads. Because of the increased blood flow, higher pressure gets inside the tooth. And since the tooth cannot swell and adjust to the pressure, the nerves that are inside the tooth get strained and compressed, leading to tooth pain.

As the infection progresses, the fresh blood supply gets cut off due to the increased pressure, and the tissue inside dies. You may think that the infection stops as the pain subsides, but the problem simply just changed location. The infection then spreads into the jawbone, causing fluid accumulation, throbbing pain, swelling, and sometimes numbness.

What Happens when a Tooth Infection Spreads?

As the bacteria that infected your tooth reaches your gums and jawbone, they can cause the following health complications:

Osteomyelitis of the Jaw

This is, simply put, the infection of the bone that surrounds the infected tooth. As the infection spreads to the jaw, suppuration or the formation of pus surrounding the infected tooth starts, causing your gums to have swelling, redness, and pain. Symptoms also include fever, muscle spasms, and other inflammatory complaints.

Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis

Simply described as the blood clot formation in the cavernous sinuses of the brain, this condition gets more severe than how it sounds. The cavernous sinuses, located behind our eyes, are connected to large blood vessels called the jugular veins that supply blood to the brain.

The blood clot builds up to prevent the infection from spreading further. However, its presence can limit the blood flow to the brain, damaging the brain, eyes, and nerves running between them. Cavernous sinus thrombosis can manifest as a sharp headache surrounding the eyes, swollen or bulging eyes, sore eye pain, and double vision.

dental abscessCellulitis

You can also develop facial cellulitis because of severe tooth infections.  If the infection isn’t treated, more serious infections may spread to the face, making it swell. Facial cellulitis is an infection of the skin and underlying soft tissues. This is a very serious condition. Once the infection and swelling start, it can spread quickly.

Parapharyngeal Abscess

A deep neck abscess, this condition happens when the type of bacteria that caused your tooth infection reaches the parapharyngeal space. This is where neck muscles and blood vessels meet, so developing an abscess in this region may cause further complications that may sometimes cause fatal effects.

Patients with parapharyngeal abscess may present symptoms like fever, sore throat, odynophagia, and swelling in the neck down to the hyoid bone.


Bacterial meningitis is rare, but once it happens, it may pose fatal complications to the patient. You can spread the bacteria to the meninges of the brain through untreated tooth infection and wound infection after tooth extraction.


If the type of bacteria that caused your tooth infection reaches the bloodstream, sepsis becomes possible. This condition, incorrectly defined as blood poisoning, is a grave medical condition where the immune system severely overreacts to an infection in the blood. As the body wants to defeat the bacteria that cause the infection, it uses desperate measures that can also harm the body.


Symptoms of Tooth Infection

Untreated tooth infection may escalate from a simple dental care problem to a systemic health issue. Symptoms you may experience while battling this tooth emergency would depend on what extent the infection spreads. Typically, you may feel:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Toothache
  • Dizziness
  • Fever with chills
  • Facial swelling/ gum swelling
  • Dehydration
  • Confusion


Can A Tooth Infection Spread: When To Need A Doctor

The truth is, not all tooth infection needs a doctor‘s appointment, your dentist can easily address your concerns if your infection or tooth decay gets diagnosed early. Of course, as we always say, prevention is better than cure. Having your regular dental appointment lets your dentist monitor your dental cavity and see any signs of developing risks become problems even happen.

However, if you have been dealing with a stubborn tooth infection and you suddenly feel the following symptoms, it would be best to consult a doctor immediately:

  • dental appointment for tooth infectionSevere swelling
  • Difficulty of breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Severe pain
  • Confusion
  • High fever
  • Chest pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Seizure
  • Vomiting

If any of these symptoms surface during your tooth infection battle, do not hesitate to get immediate medical help as this may signal severe and systemic issues.


Treatment For Tooth Infection

An abscess is a true dental emergency and is usually treated with a combination of antibiotic therapy, endodontic treatment or root canal therapy, and the removal of the tooth. However, the type of treatment you may receive depends on the location, the extent of the infection, and your immune system’s reaction when you have the infection.

Antibiotic Therapy

Like any other infection in the body, the prescription of antibiotics is probably very common. The course and type of antibiotic treatment, of course, would depend on what type or strain of bacteria is present, your body sensitivity to the medication, and the severity of the infection. Your doctor or dentist may prescribe a higher dose or an extended course of medication treatment if your infection deems severe.

Root Canal Therapy

To treat the abscess inside your teeth, the dentist needs to remove the infected pulp so that the infection will not spread and cause further damage. It also lets you preserve your tooth if the crown is still salvageable.

Abscess Drainage

If the pus formation becomes visible in the gums, your dentist may aspirate it to relieve the pressure inside the tooth, easing your complaints of tooth pain, swelling, or even numbness.

Tooth Extraction

If your dentist concludes that the infection totally damaged your tooth, the last resort is tooth extraction. This eliminates the possibility of bacteria thriving inside or around the tooth, as well as removes the infected pulp that can serve as the gateway to the spread of infection.

Most tooth infections are easily treatable. However, if a person delays treatment, a tooth infection can spread to other parts of the body. Once the infection has spread, it can quickly lead to severe and potentially life-threatening complications.











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