Recognizing Tooth Infection Symptoms
Tooth infection symptoms are usually easy to spot – especially when you experience pain in your tooth. When you notice the warning signs of tooth infection early, the chances are good that a dentist can save your tooth. You’ll also be in a lot less pain if you get to the infection before it spreads. A tooth abscess is a bacterial infection that occurs when oral bacteria penetrate into the pulp of the tooth (usually through a cavity or other damaged area). The symptoms of tooth infection are caused by bacteria, the damaged dental tissue and the immune system’s response to infection. Here are the signs that a tooth abscess is forming or getting worse:
This is the classic tooth infection symptom (although it’s possible to have an abscess for years without pain). The type of discomfort can vary from throbbing or gnawing to sharp spikes of pain. It doesn’t typically come and go — the pain is persistent. This symptom may stop once the bacterial infection has completely destroyed the tooth root or if the abscess bursts and drains on its own.
A pimple may appear on your gum near an infected tooth as pus accumulates under the surface. The area may ooze a whitish lumpy or liquid substance. This can make your breath smell bad and may leave a bad taste in your mouth.
A visible dark area or hole in your tooth is a sign of advanced dental caries (a cavity). Since bacteria often enter the pulp of the tooth through the hole created by a cavity, this is a sign that you may have a tooth infection.
The nerve in your tooth often becomes very sensitive when the area is infected and swollen. You may find that biting down or chewing causes a sharp increase in your pain level. Your tooth may also be very sensitive to hot or cold foods and beverages.
You may notice that the lymph nodes in your neck near the back of your jaw are swollen. This is an indication that your body is fighting an infection (and possibly losing that fight). If you have other tooth infection symptoms along with swollen lymph nodes, that’s a sign that you have a tooth abscess.
This is one of the more serious symptoms of an abscess that is no longer confined to the tooth pulp or the area directly surrounding the tooth root. The swelling can be severe, making the whole side of your face swell up or your mouth difficult to open and close. In extreme cases, it can even interfere with your ability to breathe. Swelling is a tooth infection symptom that requires immediate medical attention. Call your dentist right away or visit the emergency room.
In addition to flu-like symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea and chills, you may have a fever with a serious tooth infection. If you have a high temperature, this indicates a severe tooth abscess that needs to be addressed right away. The infection has probably already spread and you may need antibiotics in addition to surgery to treat the abscess.