Tooth decay resulting in cavities should be treated as early as possible to prevent complications like dental infections. This is why regularly seeing your dentist is so vital, as cavities can be detected before they grow and damage teeth. Symptoms that might indicate having an infected tooth include intense toothaches, extreme sensitivity to temperature extremes, fever and an obnoxious taste in the mouth.
Possible Dental Infection
A tooth infection (or abscessed tooth) can arise from factors such as tooth decay, poor oral hygiene, failed previous dental work, or trauma to the mouth and teeth. The bacterial overgrowth in an active infection results in a fluid buildup and swelling, which is accompanied by heightened pain and sensitivity. The thing to remember about these infections is that they won’t go away on their own and will require dental intervention – the sooner, the better.
If you find yourself with a painful tooth indicating an infection, you will need to have it treated to prevent it from spreading to your jaw, head or neck. Treatment may involve taking antibiotics to stop the infection and prevent spreading, along with some over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications to deal with the active infection, pain and inflammation. The abscess may require being incised, drained and the tooth nerve cleaned out. In certain cases, the infected tooth may need to be removed or have a root canal performed to save the tooth. If the infection involves cavities, they will need to be filled in to prevent bacterial infection.
Immediate Home Self-Care
To help ease the symptoms of infection until you can be seen, you can take the following measures to find temporary relief:
- Rinse the mouth gently with warm salt water or baking soda in water.
- Take OTC medications like ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- Stay away from temperature extremes (hot or cold foods/beverages).
- Chew carefully on the opposite side of the mouth.
- Brush the affected area around the tooth gently with a soft toothbrush.
- Stick to soft foods that won’t aggravate the tooth or get stuck.
- Untreated cavities, deep or large fillings: Where bacteria reaches the tooth nerve, infecting the tooth.
- Dental trauma: Injury or trauma that damages and kills the tooth nerve, requiring removal to avoid infection.
- Periodontal infections: A dental infection that attacks the bone material supporting the tooth, allowing bacteria to infiltrate.
- Gingival infections: Infections in the oral tissue.
- Periapical infections: Infection in the tooth pulp.
We encourage you to be proactive in your oral care to keep your teeth and gums healthy and avoid dental complications from developing. This should include brushing with toothpaste at least twice a day, flossing between teeth and around the gumline at least once a day, limiting sugary, starchy foods and beverages, and keeping all scheduled dental checkups with your dentist.
If you are concerned that you might be experiencing a dental infection, we urge you to be seen for immediate treatment. Our oral surgeons will evaluate your tooth to determine which treatment is right for you. Remember, dental infections won’t go away on their own and can even be life-threatening if treatment is avoided. To schedule a consultation as soon as possible, give our office a call today. You deserve quality dental care and peace of mind!