Discover the causes, symptoms, and treatment of tooth infection.

It is estimated that 13% of adults seek dental care for dental infections and that 1 in 2,600 people in the United States is hospitalized due to a dental infection. More than 1 in 5 people have untreated dental caries, and 3 in 4 people have had at least one dental restoration during their life.

A tooth infection or “tooth abscess” is a collection of pus and bacteria that forms and grows inside the tooth. Without proper treatment, a tooth infection can spread to other areas of the body and can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications.

An infected tooth can be diagnosed following an examination by your dentist.

Facts About Infected Teeth

  1. Infection leads to damaging tooth decay. Food particles contain bacteria, which form acids that attack tooth enamel and infect the tooth interior.

  2. Infected teeth threaten the health of the entire body. A toothache doesn’t just affect oral health; it can affect your entire body.
  3. An absence of pain does not mean the problem has gone away.
  4. A tooth infection often leads to a painful dental abscess.
  5. An infected tooth can be saved if treated in a timely manner. A toothache does not necessarily mean an extraction is necessary. In fact, most dentists prefer to save teeth whenever possible.

Symptoms of a Tooth Infection

It’s important to recognize the most common signs and symptoms of a tooth infection.

  • Tooth pain – An infected tooth can cause a throbbing sensation that radiates into the head, jaw, ear, or neck. This pain can be severe and persistent, making it hard to chew, talk and sleep.
  • Bad breath – An infected tooth, caused by bacteria growth, may result in a bad taste in the mouth or bad breath.
  • Sensitivity – Eating, chewing, or biting may cause irritation or pain.
  • Fever or swelling – An infected tooth causes facial swelling and the body’s attempt to fight the infection.


  • Tap on your teeth. A tooth that has an abscess at its root is generally sensitive to touch or pressure.

  • X-ray Recommendation. An X-ray of the aching tooth can identify an abscess. Dentists also use X-rays to determine whether the infection has spread, causing abscesses in other areas.
  • CT Scan Recommendation. If the infection has spread to other areas CT scan may be used to assess the extent of the infection.


  • Open  (incise) and drain the abscess. The dentist will make a small cut into the abscess to allow pus to drain out and wash the area with salt water (saline). Occasionally, a small rubber drain is positioned to keep the area open for drainage while the swelling decreases.

  • Perform a root canal. Eliminate the infection and save the tooth. The dentist:
    • Drills into the tooth in order to remove the diseased central tissue (pulp) and drain the abscess.
    • Fills and seals the tooth’s pulp chamber and root canals.
    • Caps the tooth with a crown to increase strength, especially if it is a back tooth.
  • Extract the affected tooth. If the affected tooth cannot be saved, the dentist will extract the tooth and drain the abscess to eliminate the infection.
  • Prescribe antibiotics. If the infection is limited to the abscessed area, antibiotics may not be required. If the infection has spread to nearby teeth, the jaw, or other areas, antibiotics will likely be prescribed to inhibit further spread.

In most cases, tooth infections are easily treatable. However, a person who delays treatment is at risk of developing the following complications:

  • Osteomyelitis: An infection of the bone surrounding the tooth.
  • Cavernous sinus thrombosis: An infection of the blood vessels within the sinuses.
  • Cellulitis: An infection of the skin and fat directly beneath the skin.
  • Parapharyngeal abscess: An abscess at the back of the mouth.
  • Sepsis: A serious medical condition in which the immune system severely overreacts to an infection in the blood.

Without treatment, a tooth infection can spread to the face and neck. Severe infections may even reach more distant parts of the body. In some cases, they may become systemic, affecting multiple tissues and systems throughout the body

Call iSmile by Dr. Sonia Olivares Today

Experiencing a tooth infection? To discuss treatment options and determine which route is best for your overall health, call iSmile by Dr. Sonia Olivares today. We serve Coral GablesSt. DoralCoral SpringsFlorida, and the surrounding areas.

Dr. Sonia Olivares has dedicated her life to improving patients’ oral health, creating beautiful smiles, and increasing the confidence that goes with them. She spends time with each and every patient to ensure they receive proper care, from evaluation to procedure. Dr. Sonia Olivares’ goal is to effectively resolve any dental issues her patients are faced with, while providing courteous, knowledgeable, and professional service.

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To Prepare for your Appointment:

  • Make a list of experienced symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to your tooth or mouth pain.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins, herbs, or other supplements and the dosages that you’re taking.
  • Prepare questions to ask your dentist.

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