how long until a tooth infection kills you

How Long Until a Tooth Infection Kills You? How Infection Spreads

It’s no secret that tooth abscesses can be incredibly dangerous. Left untreated, they can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious health problems. How long until a tooth infection kills you? Learn more about how these infections spread and what the symptoms are.

Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess

Typically, a tooth abscess will cause severe throbbing pain, swelling in the surrounding gums and face, and fever. Other common symptoms are:

  • sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures;
  • bad taste or smell in the mouth;
  • difficulty chewing or biting down; and
  • swollen lymph nodes.

The swelling and pain can worsen over time if the abscess is not treated. Your body will try to fight off the infection, but at this point, it won’t be able to do so on its own. The tooth pulp, which contains blood vessels and nerves, usually can’t heal without treatment. Bacteria multiply and the infection spreads, causing damage to the surrounding tissue.

So, how long until a tooth infection kills you? Keep reading for the best estimate.

How Dental Infection Progresses

How long can a tooth infection go untreated? It can vary from person to person. It depends on your overall health and immune system, and how quickly the infection spreads to other parts of the body.

First, the bacteria will take over the pulp inside the tooth. From there, it can spread to the surrounding bone and tissue in the jaw. The bacterial infection can also spread through the bloodstream to other areas of the body, such as the spinal cord and heart. This can lead to serious health complications and even death.

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How Long Until a Tooth Infection Kills You?

Taking all that into account, how long until a tooth infection kills you? The good news is that it usually won’t, as almost nobody would be able to ignore the pain and symptoms for that long. But it is possible, and it could happen in as little as a few weeks to a few months, if the infection isn’t treated and spreads to other vital organs.

In the 1600s, dental infections were among the top 10 leading causes of death in London. In fact, 10–40% of these infections were fatal up until 1908.

Today, thanks to modern medicine and dentistry, fatalities from tooth abscesses are incredibly rare. Quick and easy treatments are available that completely remove the infection and prevent its spread to other parts of the body.

Life-Threatening Complications of Dental Infections

Now you know the answer to “how long can a tooth infection go untreated” – weeks or months before it could potentially become fatal. But how can a tooth infection kill you? Below, we’ll discuss some of the life-threatening complications that can result from these infections.


Sepsis is a potentially deadly complication of any infection, and tooth abscesses are no exception. It occurs when the body’s response to an infection causes inflammation throughout the body. This can lead to organ failure and even death, if not treated quickly.

Ludwig’s Angina

One of the most common life-threatening complications of a tooth abscess is Ludwig’s angina, a swelling of the floor of the mouth that can block the airway and make breathing difficult. Ludwig’s angina can lead to respiratory failure and death, if not treated immediately.

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Necrotizing Fasciitis

This rare but serious complication, also known as “flesh-eating disease”, occurs when the infection spreads and starts to destroy the surrounding tissue. This can lead to severe complications and may require surgery to remove the dead tissue.


Mediastinitis is a rare but serious complication that occurs when the infection spreads to the tissues in the middle of the chest, including the space between the lungs. This can lead to organ failure and even death, if not treated quickly.


Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, usually caused by bacteria entering the bloodstream. It can occur as a complication of a dental infection, and can lead to damage to the heart valves and potentially death.

Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis

Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a dangerous blood clot of the sinuses, just under the brain. It can be a complication of a dental infection, and can lead to stroke and even death if not treated promptly.

Can an Infected Tooth Be Saved?

If you suspect a tooth abscess, it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible. Many infected teeth can be saved with root canal therapy. This treatment removes the infected pulp, cleans out the infection, and seals the tooth to prevent further infection. The alternative is an extraction, where the infected tooth is removed.

When to Contact a Dentist

How long until a tooth infection kills you? It might take weeks or months, but the bottom line is: don’t ignore a tooth abscess. Get it treated quickly to avoid potentially life-threatening complications. If you have severe toothache, swelling, or fever, see a dentist immediately or go to the emergency room. Early treatment can save your tooth – and possibly even your life.

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