There’s not much worse than a toothache. The pain ranges from mild to excruciating and is difficult to ignore. Many people experience a stabbing sensation in their mouths around the suspect tooth. Any pain in your teeth should be addressed by a dentist. The causes of a toothache can be either due to a cavity or, in more serious instances, an infection. Both can lead to serious consequences if ignored– especially a tooth infection. It’s important to see your dentist for treatment as soon as possible.
Tooth Infection vs Cavity
There are a few differences between cavities and tooth infections. Cavities are more common and can be detected earlier. A cavity is a small, visible hole in the tooth, and is also known as tooth decay. It is most often treated with a filling procedure. The procedure involves your dentist first removing any bacteria found in the tooth and then placing a filling on the hole to seal it. The dental filling itself can be made of gold, porcelain, silver amalgam, or composite resin fillings.
A tooth infection is a more serious condition. Tooth infections are trickier to spot because they take place inside of your tooth’s pulp, the interior of your tooth that houses the nerves and blood vessels. They occur when the pulp of your tooth becomes infected with bacteria due to tooth decay or trauma to the tooth. An infection in your tooth can cause exterior symptoms such as:
- Extreme pain
- Swollen face
- Redness around the infected tooth
- Visible pus
It’s important to contact your dentist if you believe that you have a cavity or infection in your tooth.
Dangers of a Tooth Infection
Tooth infections can be excruciating and should be addressed as soon as possible. An infected tooth can lead to what is known as an abscessed tooth. An abscess is a pocket of pus that can occur at different areas of the tooth, including the tip of the root or in the gums.
Periapical abscesses, which happen at the tip of the root, can be treated by your dentist. They will first drain the pocket of pus and get rid of the infection. A root canal may be performed to save the tooth, but in severe cases, the tooth may need to be pulled.
If left untreated the infection can spread to the rest of your body, which can be incredibly dangerous. There are signs to watch for if the infection has spread including:
- Face swelling that can make it difficult to swallow, breathe, or open your mouth fully
- Increased heart rate
- Increased breathing rate
- Stomach pain
An abscess can also rupture, spreading the infection to your jaw and other areas of your head and neck. This can be incredibly dangerous especially for those with weakened immune systems and may cause you to develop sepsis, which is a life-threatening infection.
A tooth infection can affect people of all ages and can be even more dangerous in children. It’s important to seek a pediatric dentist if your child is experiencing pain in their tooth.
Treating a Tooth Infection
If you have an infected tooth, there are a couple of treatment options your dentist can perform including:
- Tooth Extraction: It’s important that the infection and affected tissue are removed. The easiest way for your dentist to do this is by simply removing your tooth. You may choose to have it replaced with an implant or other type of tooth replacement.
- Root Canal Therapy: Getting a root canal can help save your tooth. The procedure involves removing the tooth’s pulp and the infection. There is a rare chance that your tooth may become re-infected or the root canal fails. Your dentist may suggest getting a dental crown placed after your procedure to strengthen and protect your tooth.
How to Prevent a Tooth Infection
Your risk factor of developing a tooth infection increases if you have a high sugar diet or poor dental hygiene. Dry mouth may also increase your chances.
To help lower your risk you should develop good habits that include:
- Brush your teeth at least twice per day with fluoride toothpaste
- Floss at least once per day
- Drink fluoridated water
- Lower your sugar intake
- Increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your diet
- Avoid tobacco products
- Get regular dental check-ups
Protect Your Teeth with the Help of Timpanogos Dental
At Timpanogos Dental, your dental health is important to us. Our knowledgeable team is here to ensure that your visit is a fun and relaxing experience. We offer adult and pediatric dentistry at our American Fork, Utah office. To find out more about our services call us today at 801-768-9471.