Tooth Infection: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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Close-up of a mouth with a swollen, red abscess on the gum next to a Tooth infections .


When bad germs sneak into your tooth and make it sick, it’s called a tooth infection. It happens when you don’t take good care of your teeth or if one gets broken. These germs create a yucky stuff called pus, which can cause pain, swelling, and big problems if you don’t treat it. Signs of a tooth infection include a really bad toothache, feeling pain when you eat or drink hot or cold things, swollen gums or face, having a fever, and having stinky breath or taste. To fix it, the dentist might need to clean out the bad stuff, drain the yucky stuff, and sometimes give you medicine to kill the germs.

In this blog we discuss these topics 

What is Tooth Infections

A tooth infection, also known as a tooth abscess, occurs when bacteria get into the inner part of the tooth, called the pulp. This can be caused by untreated cavities, broken teeth, or gum disease. As the bacteria grow, they can form a collection of pus, which, if left untreated, can cause swelling, pain, and serious problems. Symptoms include a bad toothache, sensitivity to hot or cold, swelling of the gums or face, fever, and bad breath or taste. Treatment usually involves draining the pus, draining the infected pulp, and sometimes giving antibiotics to clear up the infection.

Signs and Symptoms of a Tooth Infection

Signs and symptoms of tooth infection

  • Severe toothache: Constant and throbbing pain in the affected tooth.
  • Sensitivities: Increased sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks.
  • Swelling: Swelling of the gums or face near the affected tooth.
  • Fever: An increase in body temperature as the body fights infection.
  • Bad taste or odor: A foul taste or odor in the mouth indicates pus drainage.
  • Red or swollen gums: Inflammation around the affected area.
  • Difficulty chewing: Pain when biting or chewing.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: Tender and enlarged lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck.

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is important to see a dentist immediately to prevent the infection from spreading.

Causes of Tooth Infection 

A tooth infection, also called a dental abscess, happens when bacteria get inside the tooth and cause an infection. Here are the main reasons why this can happen:

Tooth Decay (Cavities)

Not brushing or flossing well can lead to plaque buildup. Plaque has bacteria that make acids which can create holes in the teeth. If these holes go deep enough, they can cause an infection.

Gum Disease

Gum disease starts with sore and bleeding gums (gingivitis) and can get worse, affecting the bones and tissues around the teeth (periodontitis). Bacteria from infected gums can spread to the tooth roots and cause an abscess.

Cracked or Broken Teeth

Biting something hard or having an accident can crack or break your teeth. Bacteria can get in through these cracks and cause an infection.

Dental Procedures

Sometimes bacteria can get into a tooth during or after dental work, like fillings, crowns, or root canals, especially if the tools weren’t clean or if aftercare wasn’t done properly.

Weak Immune System

People with weak immune systems from conditions like diabetes or HIV/AIDS, or from treatments like chemotherapy, are more likely to get infections, including tooth infections.

Old Dental Work

Fillings or crowns can wear out over time, creating spaces for bacteria to get into the tooth.

Tooth Injury

An injury that moves or dislodges a tooth can damage it and make it easier for bacteria to cause an infection.

To prevent tooth infections, brush and floss your teeth regularly, visit the dentist for check-ups and cleanings, avoid too much sugar, and fix any dental problems quickly.

tooth with bacteria multiplying within the pulp chamber, causing inflammation and infection.

Treatment for Tooth Infections

Treating a tooth infection is important to prevent the infection from spreading and to relieve pain. Here are common treatments for tooth infections:


Your dentist will prescribe antibiotics to kill the bacteria causing the infection. This helps reduce the infection and prevents it from spreading.


If there is an abscess (a pocket of pus), the dentist may need to drain it. This is done by making a small cut in the gum to let the pus out, which reduces pressure and pain.

Root Canal

A root canal is a procedure where the dentist removes the infected pulp from inside the tooth. The inside of the tooth is then cleaned and sealed to prevent further infection. This can save the tooth from being extracted.

Tooth Extraction

If the tooth is too damaged to be saved, the dentist might need to pull it out. This removes the source of the infection.

Pain Relief

Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help manage the pain until you see a dentist. Your dentist might also prescribe stronger pain medication if needed.

Warm Salt Water Rinse

Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water can help reduce pain and swelling. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and rinse your mouth several times a day.

Proper Oral Hygiene

Keeping your mouth clean by brushing and flossing regularly can help prevent further infection and promote healing.

Avoid Irritants

Avoid very hot or cold foods and drinks, and do not chew on the side of the mouth where the infection is located, as this can increase pain.

It’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible if you suspect you have a tooth infection. Delaying treatment can lead to more serious complications, such as the infection spreading to other parts of the body.

How to Avoid Dental Infections

Avoiding dental infections involves good oral hygiene and regular dental care. Here are some tips to help prevent dental infections:

Brush Regularly

Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. Make sure to brush all surfaces of your teeth and along the gumline.

Floss Daily

Floss between your teeth daily to remove plaque and food particles that your toothbrush can’t reach. This helps prevent gum disease and cavities.

Use Mouthwash

Rinse with an antimicrobial mouthwash to reduce bacteria in your mouth. This can help prevent plaque buildup and gum disease.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Limit sugary foods and drinks, as sugar promotes tooth decay. Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and dairy products to support dental health.

Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water to help wash away food particles and bacteria. Water also helps keep your mouth moist, which is important for preventing tooth decay.

Avoid Tobacco

Do not smoke or use tobacco products, as they increase the risk of gum disease and oral infections.

Regular Dental Check-ups

Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings, usually every six months. Your dentist can detect early signs of dental problems and provide treatments to prevent infections.


Consider getting dental sealants, which are protective coatings applied to the chewing surfaces of the back teeth. Sealants can help prevent cavities, especially in children and teenagers.

Replace Your Toothbrush

Change your toothbrush every three to four months, or sooner if the bristles are frayed. A worn toothbrush is less effective at cleaning your teeth.

Protect Your Teeth

If you play sports, wear a mouthguard to prevent injuries that could lead to cracked or broken teeth.

Manage Dry Mouth

If you have dry mouth, talk to your dentist about ways to increase saliva production. Saliva helps protect your teeth from decay and infection.

Treat Dental Issues Promptly

Address dental problems like cavities, gum disease, and cracked teeth as soon as possible. Early treatment can prevent these issues from developing into infections.

By following these tips and maintaining good oral hygiene, you can significantly reduce your risk of dental infections.


Tooth infections, also known as dental abscesses, are serious conditions caused by bacteria invading the inner part of the tooth. Prompt treatment is essential to prevent complications and alleviate symptoms like severe toothache, swelling, and fever. Treatment options include antibiotics, drainage of abscesses, root canal therapy, or tooth extraction. Maintaining good oral hygiene, regular dental check-ups, and a healthy lifestyle are key to preventing dental infections. Seeking professional dental care at the first sign of a tooth infection is crucial for preserving oral health and avoiding further complications.


Q1. How long can a tooth infection go untreated? 

A1. A tooth infection left alone can get worse over time. It might spread to other parts of your mouth and even your body. It could take weeks or months for this to happen.

Q2. Are there different types of tooth infections? 

A2. Yes, there are three types:

  1. Gum abscess: This is when the infection is only in the gum.
  2. Bone abscess: It starts in the bone supporting your teeth.
  3. Pulp abscess: It begins in the soft pulp of the tooth.

Q3. What is the first stage of tooth infection? 

A3. The first stage involves the pulp inside the tooth getting inflamed. This can be caused by decay, injury, or irritation from dental work.

Q4. Can a tooth infection heal on its own? 

A4. No, a tooth infection won’t get better without treatment. Even if it feels better after bursting, it still needs treatment. If not treated, the infection can spread to other parts of your head and neck.

Q5. Is it OK to leave an infected tooth? 

A5. No, it’s not okay. Even if it doesn’t hurt, you should see a dentist. Infected teeth need treatment, or they can make you sick and spread to other parts of your body.

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