A tooth infection, also known as a dental abscess, is a serious condition that can lead to life-threatening complications if not treated promptly. According to Microbioz India, a leading online magazine for microbiology and health news, a tooth infection can cause death in several months by spreading to other parts of the body and causing sepsis, a severe inflammatory response that can damage multiple organs.
What causes a tooth infection and how to prevent it?
A tooth infection occurs when bacteria enter the innermost part of the tooth, called the pulp, and cause inflammation and pus formation. This can happen due to tooth decay, gum disease, injury, or previous dental procedures. The infection can cause severe pain, swelling, sensitivity, fever, and foul taste in the mouth.
To prevent a tooth infection, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing and flossing regularly, avoiding sugary and acidic foods and drinks, and visiting the dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. If you have any signs of tooth decay or damage, such as cavities, cracks, or chips, you should seek dental treatment as soon as possible to avoid further complications.
How does a tooth infection spread and what are the risks?
A tooth infection can spread from the tooth to the surrounding tissues, such as the jawbone, the gums, the floor of the mouth, and the sinuses. It can also enter the bloodstream and affect distant organs, such as the heart, the lungs, the brain, and the kidneys. This can lead to serious and potentially fatal conditions, such as:
- Sepsis: a systemic infection that causes a high fever, low blood pressure, rapid breathing, and organ failure.
- Ludwig’s angina: a swelling of the tissues under the tongue that can block the airway and cause difficulty breathing and swallowing.
- Necrotizing fasciitis: a flesh-eating bacterial infection that destroys the skin and soft tissues and can cause shock and death.
- Mediastinitis: an inflammation of the space between the lungs that can cause chest pain, shortness of breath, and infection of the heart valves.
- Endocarditis: an infection of the inner lining of the heart that can damage the heart valves and cause heart failure and stroke.
- Cavernous sinus thrombosis: a blood clot in the sinuses near the brain that can cause severe headache, vision loss, and brain damage.
- Osteomyelitis: an infection of the bone that can cause bone pain, swelling, and fractures.
- Brain abscess: a collection of pus in the brain that can cause headache, confusion, seizures, and coma.
How to treat a tooth infection and when to seek emergency care?
A tooth infection can be treated with antibiotics, painkillers, and drainage of the abscess. In some cases, a root canal treatment or tooth extraction may be necessary to remove the source of the infection. The sooner you seek dental care, the better the chances of recovery and avoiding complications.
However, if you have any of the following symptoms, you should seek emergency medical care immediately, as they may indicate a severe infection that requires urgent attention:
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Severe swelling of the face, neck, or mouth
- High fever that lasts more than three days
- Rapid heartbeat or low blood pressure
- Confusion or altered mental state
- Vision loss or double vision
- Severe headache or neck stiffness
- Numbness or weakness in the face or limbs
A tooth infection can be a serious and potentially deadly condition if left untreated. Therefore, it is important to take good care of your oral health and seek dental and medical help as soon as possible if you suspect that you have an infected tooth.