What Happens When We Leave an Infected Tooth Untreated?
A tooth infection is one of the health concerns that make our lives unbearable. Having pus in a tooth pulp is endangering and a tooth extraction could be the only remedy, sometimes. Since it can never heal itself, we must take proper medical care to prevent it from going from bad to worse, and get it seen to as soon as possible by a professional, be it one from McCrae Dental Surgery or of equal calibre. After all, the longer it is not seen to, the more at risk we are.
When bacteria invade our dental formula, it causes a tooth abscess or the so-called tooth infection. This is a pocket of pus that could form at various places including the gum and the root tip. Some of the causes of tooth infection are broken teeth, an untreated cavity, and complex dental surgery. The most apparent signs of tooth infection are:
- Throbbing toothache
- Bad breath
- Swollen gum and jaw
- Pain when biting or chewing food
- Pain worsening when lying down
- Persistent bitter taste
- Bad breath
- Swollen cheeks and lymph nodes
- Sensitivity to changes in temperature
- Loose/discolored tooth
We need emergency dental care to drain the pus. This is the only way to drain the pus and eliminate the infection. Otherwise, an untreated tooth can lead to further complications as highlighted below.
A dental abscess is a bacterial infection resulting in pus formation anywhere in the dental formula. The pain from an abscessed tooth ranges from moderate to severe. Sometimes it can radiate to the neck and ears. There are three main types of dental abscess:
- Gingival abscess: Affects the gums
- Periapical abscess: Affects a tooth’s root at the tip
- Periodontal abscess: Affects the gum just adjacent to the root and may spread to nearby tissues and bone
If a dental abscess spreads further to the bloodstream, it reaches the brain tissue and becomes a brain abscess. This condition has been linked to meningitis and leaves the brain membranes inflamed. A brain abscess can also affect the spinal cord especially in patients with a weaker immune system. The symptoms include extreme fatigue, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, diarrhoea, dehydration, excessive sweating, skin flushing, mental confusion, and vomiting. We should call a doctor immediately if our loved ones show these symptoms.
A lot of patients think sepsis is blood poisoning. However, it is a condition that results from how our bodies react to teeth infections. Sepsis may start from anywhere, say the tongue, lips, decayed tooth, palate, or gum. Without an early diagnosis, sepsis turns into a life-threatening disease. As soon as the infection gets to the pulp, it touches the blood vessels, nerves, and connective tissues. Then it spreads to bones and the surrounding tissues hence forming an abscess that finally turns into sepsis. At this stage, the antibodies are trying to fight germs, hence flooding the bloodstreams. In the process, they trigger inflammations on different parts where they are trying to fight bacteria. The problem with too many inflammations is that they damage organs and might even cause total failure and death. Complications resulting from sepsis range from shortness of breath, low blood pressure, and high fever. This is a septic shock. Some patients manage to survive it but may sustain life-changing injuries like TSD, organ failure, chronic pain, fatigue, and amputations.
Depending on the severity of an infected tooth, a dentist may conduct some dental X-rays. This helps to see how far the infection has spread. The treatment is geared towards clearing up the pus to relieve pain. A dentist can take one of the following measures.
- Draining and cleaning: Cutting the abscessed area to drain out the fluid and clean pocket with saline solution
- Tooth extraction: In case of a damaged tooth, a dentist can extract it and drain the abscess afterward.
- Root canal procedure: Drilling into the affected tooth to remove an infected pulp. Then the dentist fills the pulp chamber and seals it. They could also suggest tooth crowning to strengthen the tooth at a later date
- Foreign object removal: A foreign object in the gum might be the cause of a dental abscess. Here, the dentist removes it and cleans the area with saline solution
- Antibiotics: Administering intravenous fluids and oral antibiotics