What Happens When a Tooth Abscess Is Left Untreated?
When bacteria enter a tooth through decay, cavities or a crack, they can form an infection, known as an abscess. An abscess can spread to the root of the tooth and into the surrounding tissue, causing pain and swelling. If left untreated, the bacteria can even enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, leading to serious complications.
If you’re wondering how long a tooth infection can go untreated, we have an article about that too. Anyway, you should see a dentist as soon as symptoms appear. Here are the early symptoms of an abscessed tooth:
- tooth pain and sensitivity;
- swelling in the gums or face;
- bad taste or smell in the mouth;
- a pocket filled with pus forming near the tooth.
But what are the symptoms of a tooth infection spreading to the body? Keep reading to find out.
Symptoms of Tooth Infections Spreading to the Body
Now that you know how the infection spreads and why it’s important to get treated quickly, let’s discuss the symptoms of a tooth infection spreading to the body. Some are tied to specific complications, while others are more general symptoms of infection.
High Fever and Chills
These are the two tell-tale signs of septicemia, or a blood infection. This can result from the bacteria from the abscess entering the bloodstream and spreading throughout the body. Septicemia can lead to sepsis – a life-threatening condition.
If the fever isn’t too bad, it might be a general sign of infection. But if accompanied by chills, weakness, sweating, and a drop in blood pressure, it could indicate septicemia and requires immediate medical attention.
Difficulty Breathing or Swallowing
If you’re experiencing these symptoms, it could indicate that the infection has spread to the bottom of the mouth, throat or lungs. Ludwig’s angina is one condition caused by a tooth infection, where the tissue underneath the tongue swells and blocks off airways. Lung abscesses are also a possibility, where pockets of infection form in the lungs. Both require prompt medical treatment.
Weakness and Fatigue
These are difficult symptoms to pinpoint, as they could be symptoms of many different things. If accompanied by seizures, confusion and headache, they could indicate meningitis, where the infection spreads to the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Sinus Pain or Swelling
When a tooth infection spreads to the sinuses, it’s called a sinus infection or sinusitis. This can cause symptoms such as facial swelling, pain and pressure in the sinus area, and a stuffy or runny nose.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
You might notice swollen lymph nodes, also called lymphadenopathy, in the neck or jaw area. This could indicate that the infection has spread to the lymph nodes and requires prompt medical attention.
10 Possible Complications of a Dental Abscess (Symptoms Summary)
Now that you know some general symptoms of a tooth infection spreading to the body, let’s go over 10 possible complications and symptoms to watch out for. They’ll be more specific than the symptoms listed earlier so you can better recognize if you need medical attention.
- Ludwig’s angina: Difficulty breathing or swallowing, drooling, swelling in the neck and jaw, trouble speaking, and redness under the chin.
- Meningitis: Sudden high fever, stiffness in the neck, headache, confusion, a purple skin rash and seizures.
- Sinusitis: Sinus pain or swelling, fever, congestion, and a thick yellow or green nasal discharge.
- Endocarditis (heart lining infection): Chest pain, night sweats, aching joints and muscles, fatigue, and heart murmurs.
- Septicemia (blood infection): High fever and chills, weakness, sweating, and low blood pressure.
- Lung abscess: Fever, coughing up bloody or foul-smelling phlegm, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
- Osteomyelitis (bone infection): Fever, swelling and redness in the infected area, severe pain, and limited range of motion.
- Brain abscess: Headache, confusion, nausea and vomiting, seizures, weakness on one side of the body, loss of balance.
- Cellulitis (skin infection): Redness and swelling, warmth in the affected area, fever, tenderness, and pain.
- Cavernous sinus thrombosis: Sudden and severe headache, weakness in the face, drooping eyelids and eyebrows, and double vision.
In general, any symptom of illness that doesn’t involve the tooth is a sign that the infection has spread to another part of the body. If you have symptoms like these, don’t delay in seeking medical treatment. A tooth infection may turn into a much more serious condition, and prompt treatment is crucial to avoiding long-term complications or even death. Read our blog post on “How long until a tooth infection kills you” to know more!
Treatment Options: Root Canal & Extraction
When it comes to treating a tooth infection, the main options are a root canal or tooth extraction. The decision will largely depend on the severity of the infection and whether the tooth can be saved. A root canal involves removing the infected pulp inside the tooth, cleaning it out, and filling or sealing it. An extraction is just as it sounds – removing the whole infected tooth.
It’s important to note that even if a root canal or extraction is successful in treating the infection, there is still a possibility that it could spread to other parts of the body. That’s why it’s crucial to seek treatment as soon as symptoms appear, before the infection has a chance to spread.
The best way to prevent a tooth infection, and all the symptoms and complications that come with it, is to practice good oral hygiene. This includes brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and regularly visiting the dentist for cleanings and check-ups.
If you do have symptoms of a tooth infection, don’t delay in seeking treatment. The sooner you address the problem, the lower the risk of complications and spreading to other parts of the body.
Can a Tooth Infection Spread to Another Person?
We’ve gone over the symptoms of a tooth infection spreading to the body. But another interesting question is, can a tooth infection spread to another person? The answer is no. Bacterial infections in the mouth are not contagious in the same way that a cold or flu is.
However, bacteria can still be passed on through sharing utensils or engaging in certain behaviors like kissing. It could increase the other person’s risk of developing a cavity or infection, but it wouldn’t spread the existing infection.
Do you have any other questions about the signs and symptoms of a tooth infection spreading to the body? Ask them in the comments and we’ll try to answer them.
- What Does an Abscess Tooth Look Like? Tooth Abscess vs. Tooth Decay
- How Long Until a Tooth Infection Kills You? How Infection Spreads
- Can a Tooth Infection Kill You? Read the Answer!
- Can Sinus Infection Cause Tooth Pain? Toothache & Sinus Pressure
- The Dangers of Pulling an Abscessed Tooth | Tooth Abscess Treatment