THE ADA IDENTIFIES tooth decay, gum disease, and a cracked tooth as causes of tooth infections. Each one allows bacteria to enter the pulp chamber, where it can create an abscess (a buildup of pus at the root tip within the jaw).
Symptoms of Tooth Infections
A toothache is the most obvious symptom of an infected tooth, but others include a bitter taste, swollen red gums, persistent bad breath, loose teeth, a draining open sore on the gums, or tooth sensitivity. However, when a tooth infection is accompanied by fever, difficulty breathing or swallowing, and swelling, it’s time to seek immediate medical attention.
Treating the Infection
If a cavity doesn’t reach the pulp, it can be treated with a filling, but root canal therapy is required to remove infection from inside a tooth. We clear out the diseased pulp and fill and seal the root canals and pulp chamber, getting rid of the source of the infection while preserving the tooth. We may drain an abscess with a small incision, then wash it with saline. We may prescribe antibiotics for spreading infection.
Preventing Tooth Infections
It’s always preferable to prevent an infection than to require treatment for one. We do that by maintaining good oral health habits: brushing twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled brush, flossing daily, and keeping up with regular dental appointments (professional cleanings and dental exams where the dentist can identify emerging problems early on).