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Can abscessed tooth cause death: An Abscessed Tooth Can Cause Serious Illness & Death

An Abscessed Tooth Can Cause Serious Illness & Death

An abscessed tooth is a bacterial infection causing the accumulation of pus that forms inside the teeth or gums. Symptoms of an abscessed tooth include pain and sensitivity, redness and swelling to the gums and jaw, fever, bitter taste or foul smell to breath, and open sore or bump on the side of the gums. An abscessed tooth can cause very serious consequences including tooth loss, jaw bone damage, sinus involvement, brain infection, heart complications and even death.

Tooth & Bone Loss

Swelling inside the jaw bone can cause inflammation of the bone. This can lead to bone death in the area of the swelling. If the bone surrounding the tooth dies, the tooth loses its support and become loose and fall out. There is risk of losing the adjacent teeth if the inflammation spreads to the surrounding bone.


Sinus & Brain

The maxillary sinus often holds roots of the upper molars. If a tooth becomes abscessed, the sinus can become affected also as it is filled with pus. The brain is located closely to the tooth roots. Infection from tooth abscess can spread to the brain through the veins, a very serious condition called Septicemia or Sepsis.


Heart Damage

If left untreated, a tooth abscess can also cause a condition known as Endocarditis. Endocarditis is the inflammation of the inner layer of the heart. Permanent heart damage can occur if the bacteria attach to the inside of the heart and grow. Also if the bacteria enter the lungs and cause pneumonia, another life threatening illness.


There are many serious conditions caused from the bacterial infection of abscess teeth. Serious heart, lung, and brain infections can lead to death if left untreated. Another risk of death caused by an abscessed tooth is the swelling of the floor of the mouth. The swelling under the jaw can block off your airway causing you to suffocate. This is a condition known as Ludwig’s Angina.

Abscessed Tooth Treatment

It is imperative to seek treatment at the earliest signs of infection. Treatment of a dental abscess depends on the extent of infection. The first step is to eliminate the infection. This may be done by root canal therapy where the abscess is drained through the tooth. Extraction of the tooth is another way to drain the infection. An incision into the swollen gum tissue is another way to drain the area. Antibiotics are prescribed to help fight the infection. Once the infection is clear, you can begin your restorative dental treatment and be on your way back to a healthy smile.

Don’t wait and put your life in danger. The treatment for an abscessed tooth is nothing compared to the potential outcome of neglecting to seek treatment out to fear. Contact South Tampa Smiles promptly if you are having any of the symptoms we have listed. We are here to help.





When Can a Tooth Infection Kill You?

An untreated tooth infection can spread to other tissues in your body within weeks or months and lead to potentially life threatening complications. While rare, it is possible for a tooth infection to kill you.

A tooth infection can happen when bacteria enter the nerve or soft tissue of the tooth, called the pulp. This can occur from tooth decay, injury, or previous dental procedures.

Below, we’ll cover how a tooth infection can lead to death, how long it may take, and when to get to a hospital.

A tooth infection occurs when bacteria enter the inside of your tooth, which contains a soft tissue called pulp. As the infection progresses, a pocket of pus builds up around the affected tooth. This is known as a dental abscess.

In London during the 1600s, dental infections were listed as the fifth or sixth leading cause of death. Even up until 1908, dental infections still ended in death between 10 to 40 percent of the time.

Due to advances in medicine and dental hygiene, death from a tooth infection is now extremely rare. However, it’s still important to seek prompt care if you suspect that you have an infected tooth.

When left untreated, a tooth infection can spread to other areas of the body, leading to serious, potentially life-threatening complications, including:

  • sepsis: a severe reaction by the body in response to the infection
  • Ludwig’s angina: a serious bacterial infection that affects the floor of the mouth, underneath the tongue
  • necrotizing fasciitis: a severe infection that leads to soft tissue death in the body
  • mediastinitis: an inflammation of the mediastinum, which is a space located between your lungs
  • endocarditis: an inflammation of your heart’s inner lining, called the endocardium
  • cavernous sinus thrombosis: a dangerous blood clot of the sinuses, just under the brain and behind the eyes
  • osteomyelitis: a bone tissue infection
  • brain abscess: a collection of pus that can form in the brain

The amount of time it takes for a tooth infection to cause death can vary. We’ll break this question down in more detail.

How long does it take for an abscess to develop?

Abscesses due to tooth decay can take several months to develop. This is because the decay process can take a while to reach and damage the pulp at the center of a tooth.

Meanwhile, injury or trauma to a tooth may allow bacteria to enter the tooth more quickly. This can happen due to injuries like a cracked or chipped tooth.

What happens once an abscess develops?

Once an abscess has formed, you typically begin to experience swelling and intermittent, throbbing pain around the affected tooth. This is a warning sign that something is wrong. However, you will probably have dental pain in your tooth from the cavity before it progresses into an abscess.

Case studies of serious illness or death from tooth infections often describe persistent toothaches that go on for weeks or months before seeking urgent or emergency care.

In many case studies, the toothaches were treated with antibiotics during this timeframe. However, antibiotics alone aren’t typically effective for treating a dental abscess. The tooth decay needs to be treated, too, either with an extraction or root canal if your tooth is salvageable.

When a dental abscess remains untreated for weeks or months, it may spread to other areas like the jaw, neck, and brain. This can cause serious symptoms like trouble swallowing, difficulty breathing, and an inability to open your mouth.

At this point, if care isn’t received, death can occur quickly, sometimes in a matter of days.

What risk factors can lead to complications from an abscess?

There are several risk factors that can increase your chances of having complications from a dental abscess, including:

  • older age
  • having diabetes
  • being immunocompromised
  • experiencing malnourishment


To summarize:

  • It can potentially take several months for a dental abscess to develop.
  • Once an abscess has formed, noticeable pain and swelling around the affected tooth usually occur.
  • If left untreated, it may take a few more weeks or months for the infection to spread to other tissues and cause complications. However, once this has happened, death can occur quickly.
  • Factors like older age, having diabetes, or being immunocompromised can increase your risk of complications from a dental abscess.

Overall, these facts underline the importance of seeking prompt medical care if you’re experiencing persistent pain or swelling around a tooth. When treated early, most tooth infections can be resolved without serious complications.

A tooth infection won’t go away on its own. It requires timely treatment so the infection doesn’t spread.

See a dentist if you notice symptoms like:

  • throbbing pain in the area of the affected tooth
  • gums that are red and swollen
  • a persistent bad taste in your mouth
  • bad breath
  • discoloration of the affected tooth
  • tooth sensitivity, either due to pressure or exposure to hot and cold

Some symptoms can signal that a tooth infection has become serious. Visit an urgent care center or the emergency room if you develop additional symptoms like:

  • fever
  • a general feeling of unwellness (malaise)
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • headache
  • nausea or vomiting
  • swelling around your face, neck, or eyes
  • inability to open your mouth or jaw (trismus)
  • trouble speaking, chewing, or swallowing
  • difficulty breathing
  • rapid heart rate

Go with your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t hesitate to seek care. Even if your symptoms aren’t due to a tooth infection, they may be caused by another health condition that requires immediate treatment.

Treatment options for a tooth infection include:

  • Drainage. A dentist will make a small incision in your gums to drain the abscess. However, this is typically used as a temporary measure, and further treatments are often needed.
  • Root canal. During a root canal, the infected pulp is removed from the tooth. The inside of the tooth is carefully cleaned and filled. A crown is then placed to help restore the tooth.
  • Tooth extraction. In situations when an infected tooth cannot be saved through a root canal, it may be extracted instead.
  • Antibiotics. Antibiotics are drugs that can kill bacteria. They’re sometimes used to treat tooth infections. Depending on the severity of your infection, you may receive oral antibiotics or intravenous (IV) antibiotics. Your tooth will also need a root canal or extraction along with the antibiotics.

Can home remedies help treat a tooth infection?

While waiting to receive treatment, you can try the following home remedies to help ease symptoms:

  • Try over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Eat soft foods, and try to chew on the opposite side of your mouth from where the infection is located.
  • Avoid foods and drinks that may irritate the infected tooth, such as those that are:
    • very hot or very cold
    • acidic
    • spicy
    • hard or crunchy
  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your teeth and avoid flossing around the affected tooth.
  • Rinse your mouth with a saltwater or hydrogen peroxide rinse to alleviate pain and swelling.
  • Place a cold compress near the affected area to ease pain and swelling.
  • Apply garlic, which has antimicrobial properties, to the affected tooth.

The home remedies above are only for use when you’re awaiting medical attention for your tooth infection. They shouldn’t be used as a substitute for seeking treatment.

Preventing a tooth infection

There are several things that you can do in your daily life to help prevent a tooth infection from occurring. Examples include:

  • brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste twice each day
  • flossing between your teeth each day
  • reducing your intake of sugary or starchy foods and drinks
  • scheduling regular dental cleanings and exams
  • seeing a dentist promptly following any tooth pain or injury, such as a chip or crack

Was this helpful?

It’s possible for a tooth infection to lead to serious or potentially life-threatening complications. Some examples include sepsis, Ludwig’s angina, and cavernous sinus thrombosis.

If a tooth infection goes untreated, it can spread to other areas of the body over a period of weeks or months. This can cause serious symptoms like fever, difficulty breathing, or trouble swallowing. Death can occur quickly without immediate care.

When a tooth infection happens, you’ll feel pain and notice swelling around the affected tooth. This is a signal to make an appointment with a dentist for an exam. Many tooth infections can be treated effectively via root canal or extraction.

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