How Long Until a Tooth Infection Kills You

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how long until a tooth infection kills you


Tooth infections are serious but very rare nowadays because of better dental care. They start inside the tooth and can cause a lot of pain and swelling. If not treated, they can spread and make you very sick. It might take a few months for the infection to get bad. But if it’s not taken care of, it can lead to dangerous problems in your body.

You might notice a bad toothache, swelling, and fever if you have a tooth infection. It’s important to get help quickly if you have these symptoms.

Treatment for a tooth infection includes antibiotics, fixing the tooth, or sometimes pulling it out. The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances of avoiding serious problems.

We’ll discuss these topics in this blog:

Can Tooth Infection Kill You?

If you’re worried about how serious a tooth infection can be, it’s important to understand how it starts and spreads. When bacteria get inside a tooth and infect the soft tissue called pulp, the infection begins.

As time goes on, the infection can get worse, forming a pocket of pus around the tooth called an abscess. This can lead to intense pain and other symptoms.

Long ago, before modern dentistry, tooth infections were a major cause of death. Shockingly, between 10 to 40 % of people with tooth infections died before 1908.

Thankfully, with today’s dental knowledge and treatments, death from a tooth infection is very rare. Medical care is available to help stop it from becoming life-threatening.

A tooth infection happens when bacteria get into the soft part inside your tooth, called the pulp. If the infection keeps getting worse, it can form a pus-filled pocket around the tooth, called an abscess.

In the past, tooth infections were a big cause of death, even up until 1908. But now, thanks to better medicine and dental care, hardly anyone dies from them anymore. However, it’s still crucial to get treatment quickly if you think you have an infected tooth.

If you don’t treat a tooth infection, it can spread to other parts of your body and cause serious problems, like:

  • Sepsis is a severe reaction your body has to the infection.
  • Ludwig’s angina is a dangerous infection under your tongue.
  • Necrotizing fasciitis is a severe infection that kills tissue in your body.
  • Mediastinitis is swelling in the space between your lungs.
  • Endocarditis is an infection in the lining of your heart.
  • Cavernous sinus thrombosis is a dangerous blood clot near your brain.
  • Osteomyelitis is an infection of your bones.
  • A brain abscess is a collection of pus in your brain.

Signs and Symptoms of a Tooth Infection

If you have a dental abscess, you might notice:

  • A really painful toothache that can spread to your jaw, neck, or ear.
  • Feeling pain when you eat or drink hot or cold things.
  • Feeling pain when you bite or chew.
  • Your face or cheek might swell up.
  • You might see a pocket of pus or a bump on your gums.
  • The lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck might be swollen and tender.
  • You could have a fever.
  • Your breath might smell bad or have a yucky taste in your mouth.

How fast could a tooth infection cause death?

How long it takes for a tooth infection to become life-threatening can vary. Let’s go through it step by step.

How long does it take for an abscess to form?

An abscess from tooth decay can take a few months to develop. Decay eats away at the tooth slowly, reaching and harming the center part called the pulp.

If a tooth gets injured, like getting cracked or chipped, bacteria can get in faster.

What happens once you have an abscess?

When you have an abscess, you’ll start feeling swelling and throbbing pain around the tooth. This is a sign that something’s wrong. But before it turns into an abscess, you’ll probably have tooth pain from the cavity.

In some cases where people got seriously sick or even died from tooth infections, they had toothaches for weeks or months before getting urgent help.

Sometimes, they took antibiotics for the toothache, but that’s usually not enough to fix an abscess. The decay in the tooth needs treatment, like pulling out the tooth or doing a root canal if the tooth can be saved.

If a dental abscess isn’t treated for weeks or months, it can spread to other parts like the jaw, neck, and even the brain. This can cause big problems like trouble swallowing or breathing.

If you don’t get help at this point, you could die fast, sometimes within days.

How common is death from a tooth infection?

In the old days before antibiotics, about 10-40% of people with bad tooth infections died. But after penicillin was discovered, the chances of dying from it went way down. There aren’t many studies on how many people die from tooth infections nowadays, but one study found it was about 0.9% out of 297 patients with serious infections in their head and neck.

Even though it’s much safer now than in the past, our dentists still say it’s a bad idea to let a tooth abscess turn into Ludwig’s angina. That can make you sick for a few weeks.

How to Treat Tooth Infection 

Treating a dental infection can be done in various ways:

  • Antibiotics These are medicines that can kill bacteria. You might take them by mouth or through a vein (IV). But just taking antibiotics alone might not be enough. You might also need a root canal or tooth removal.
  • Root Canal This is when your dentist removes the infected part inside your tooth. Then they clean it and fill it. Finally, they put a crown on top to protect the tooth.
  • Tooth Extraction If a root canal won’t work, your dentist might have to take the whole tooth out.
  • Drainage If you have a pocket of pus around your tooth, your dentist might need to make a small cut to let it out. But this usually isn’t a long-term fix. You’ll likely need more treatment.

Remember, it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible if you think you have a tooth infection.


In conclusion, while tooth infections can be serious if left untreated, modern dental care has made death from such infections extremely rare. It’s crucial to seek treatment promptly if you experience symptoms like severe toothache, swelling, or fever. With antibiotics and proper dental procedures, such as root canal therapy or tooth extraction, the infection can be effectively managed, preventing potential life-threatening complications. Early intervention is key to ensuring a favorable outcome and maintaining overall health.


Q1. How do you know if a tooth infection is nasty? 

A1. If it’s causing a blood infection called sepsis, you might have a fever, fast heartbeat, quick breathing, or just feel sick. In severe cases, you might feel confused, pee less, or even pass out.

Q2. How can you tell if a tooth infection is spreading? 

A2. If your face is swollen and you’re running a fever, or if you’re having trouble breathing or swallowing, get to the emergency room if you can’t see your dentist. These signs could mean the infection is spreading into your jaw, throat, or even other parts of your body.

Q3. Can your body fight off a tooth infection? 

A3. Nope, it won’t go away by itself. You might feel less pain if the infection kills the nerve in your tooth, but it’s still spreading and causing damage.

Q4. How long does it take for a tooth infection to get serious? 

A4. If a tooth abscess isn’t treated for weeks or months, it can spread to your jaw, neck, and even your brain, which can lead to big problems like trouble swallowing or breathing.

Q5. What’s the best natural way to fight a tooth infection? 

A5. Clove oil is a strong natural antibiotic for tooth infections. It helps with pain and swelling because it fights bacteria and reduces inflammation.

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