People who have never had toothaches often underestimate just how serious they can be. Oftentimes, they think they can simply live with one, underestimating the severity of the pain. But even worse, they fail to realize that a toothache is typically caused by an infection – one that could possibly prove fatal if it isn’t treated in time. By taking the time to learn more about tooth infections and their possibly deadly consequences, you and your loved ones will be able to fully recognize toothaches for the potential dental emergencies that they are.
What Causes a Tooth Infection?
At the center of every tooth is a collection of nerve endings, blood vessels, and other tissues called pulp. An infection occurs when the pulp is attacked by bacteria that has slipped past the tooth’s enamel. This is usually the result of improper oral hygiene and excessive consumption of sugary foods and beverages. When bacteria are allowed to accumulate and are exposed to sugar, the acids they produce gradually eat through the enamel, exposing the vulnerable tissues underneath.
How Can a Tooth Infection Be Deadly?
Because the pulp of the tooth contains blood vessels, an advanced infection is likely to spread throughout the body. This can weaken the immune system and eventually result in sepsis, a life-threatening condition where the body has an extreme response to an infection, leading to tissue damage and organ failure. Other potentially deadly results of tooth infection include:
- Breathing Problems: If the bacteria from a tooth infection end up in the lungs, they can multiply at a dangerous rate and make it difficult to breathe
- Meningitis: Bacteria that have entered the bloodstream may cause inflammation around the brain and spinal cord. This condition, known as meningitis, can sometimes be fatal
- Ludwig’s Angina: A tooth infection can spread to the throat and chest region. The result is severe swelling that can make it hard to breathe in smile. There are even cases where the swelling becomes so bad that the patient dies of self-suffocation
Fortunately, all of the conditions listed above can be avoided if a tooth infection is treated as promptly as possible while it’s still in the early stages.
How Will You Know If You Have a Tooth Infection?
Constant, throbbing toothaches are a common sign of a tooth infection. It’s highly recommended that you call an emergency dentist right away as soon as you realize you have a chronic toothache. Other symptoms include:
- Extreme sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages.
- A bitter after taste.
- Bad breath that doesn’t go away.
- Headaches and insomnia.
- Swollen gums.
It’s vital that you act quickly and see a dental professional as soon as you notice any of the above symptoms. Ignoring a dental infection isn’t just painful; it could mean risking your own life.
About the Author
At Winning Smile Dental Group, our dentists are highly trained and well versed in oral issues. Dr. Polly Reese has enriched her career and expertise by expanding her knowledge and skillset within dentistry. She has completed the entire curriculum for the prestigious Spear Education: Innovative Dental Continuing Education and serves as a mentor and belongs to a local Spear Study Club that meets monthly to review case studies. In addition she has studied at the Las Vegas Institute and completed The Huggins/Grube Protocol, a study for biologic and holistic dentistry. Dr. Robert Baima has more than 40 years of clinical experience and is a Diplomate with both the American Board of Periodontology and the American Board of Prosthodontics. If you are due for a checkup appointment and oral cancer screening, you can contact Winning Smile Dental Group through our website or by calling 847-350-1697.