Tooth infection: How Long Can You Live With It

Dental problems are usually neglected due to the high cost associated with them. Research shows around 77.5% of people delay dental treatment. These dental problems, be it dental decay, fracture, or pulpal and periodontal disease, can lead to major issues. One of these issues is a tooth infection or a dental abscess. How long until a tooth infection kills you? Stay tuned to find out.

Tooth Infection and its Types

Dental abscess, commonly referred to as a tooth infection, is an accumulation of pus in tooth-associated structures. This pus does not develop overnight. Instead, it starts from an untreated dental defect. Based on the type of defect, tooth infection is of the following types:

1. Periapical abscess:

When dental caries are left untreated, they may progress to the pulp, thereby infiltrating it with bacteria. These bacteria seep into the root area and from there to the periapical area via an apical opening of the tooth. This chain of events results in pus in the periapical area and is known as a periapical abscess.

2. Periodontal abscess:

When bacteria reach the interface between bone and tooth, the result usually is a periodontal abscess. A periodontal abscess can be due to several reasons, the most common being tooth fracture and dental caries.

3. Gum boil:

Gum boil, also known as a gum abscess, results from the subgingival accumulation of pus and bacteria. The result is swollen gums that may appear pinkish-red, especially in the affected area.

How can you tell if you have a tooth infection

You can never be 100% sure whether or not you have a tooth infection. However, a simple way to identify one at home is to look for certain indicators. According to the National Health Service (NHS), the following signs are associated with a dental abscess:

  • Redness inside or outside the mouth
  • Swelling in the head and neck area
  • Pain – usually associated with a tooth
  • High body temperature
  • Foul taste in the mouth
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold stimuli
  • Difficulty in moving the jaws

If you have any of the above symptoms, don’t neglect them. Immediately visit a dentist!

How can a tooth infection kill you

If you neglect the signs of a dental abscess, then yes, a tooth infection can kill you. If the infection is not treated timely, bacteria can spread into the blood and cause poisoning – a condition referred to as sepsis.

When the infection reaches the sepsis stage, it can be life-threatening. Some of you might wonder how a person can identify if they have developed sepsis. You should know the word “TIME” when you think of sepsis. TIME stands for;

T- Temperature ~ Higher or lower than normal

I- Infection in other areas of the body

M- Mental decline

E- Extremely ill ~ pain, discomfort, and difficulty breathing

Neglecting these signs can be extremely disastrous. So, if you have noticed any of the above signs, you should immediately rush to a dentist.

How long can you delay the treatment of a dental abscess

If you value yourself and your loved ones, you should never delay the treatment of tooth pain and infection. Delaying it would only make things worse. How worse can it be – some of you might wonder.

Delaying the treatment of tooth infection can lead to its spread to other parts of the body. Chronic infection may even perforate the surface of the bone and mucosa and appear as a yellow fluid oozing inside or outside the mouth.

Other potential hazards that may be associated with the delay are;

· Pericoronitis:

Pericoronitis is the inflammation and infection around the gums surrounding the crown of a tooth. It is usually associated with wisdom teeth which is why it is also termed a wisdom tooth infection. Pericoronitis may change into a cyst (dentigerous cyst) or a tumor (unicystic ameloblastoma) and may eventually develop into metastatic cancer.

· Osteomyelitis:

Inflammation and Infection of the hard bony tissue is referred to as osteomyelitis. Over time, this disease weakens the bones to the extent that they may fracture. It may also lead to tissue death and gangrene.

· Gum Boil:

Gum boil is a small nodule that develops on the gums of infected teeth. These nodules are filled with pus and appear as tiny pimples inside the oral cavity. They are painful on touch and can stop you from performing simple functions like eating or brushing your teeth.

· Fascial Space infection:

A periapical or gum infection may spread into spaces around the head and neck muscles. The resulting infection is what we call a fascial space infection. Eventually, these infections develop into cellulitis or Ludwig’s angina. Both these conditions can be extremely painful and life-threatening.

· Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis:

Infections around certain teeth, especially the upper jaw (maxilla), can travel in the head region. When the infection reaches the head, it can infect a sinus present beneath the brain. This condition is called cavernous sinus thrombosis and can lead to serious complications if left untreated.

What to expect at a dental office

You might consider treating the dental abscess at home by popping it out. Instead, it would be best if you visited a dentist ASAP.

If you reach the dental office with the signs and symptoms of a tooth infection, your dentist will evaluate the underlying cause of that infection;

· Root Canal:

If the cause of the tooth infection is an infected pulp, then most likely, your dentist will attempt a root canal treatment. This treatment involves the removal of the carious lesion and the pulpal tissue, followed by obturating the root canal with root-filling material.

· Tooth Extraction:

If the infection has progressed to far-off spaces (fascial spaces) or the tooth is a lost cause, the dentist will extract it. After the extraction procedure, your dentist will instruct you regarding certain precautions that must be followed religiously.

· Antibiotics:

No dental procedure is attempted if the tooth infection is too large or extensive. Instead, antibiotics will be prescribed by your dentist. It would be best to avoid self-medication with antibiotics, as this can be hazardous. The reason is that inappropriate use of antibiotics can result in antibiotic-resistant bacteria that may later contribute to sepsis.

· Incision and Drainage:

If a dental abscess swelling is huge, your dentist might go for an incision and drainage procedure. For this purpose, he will incise the area under local anaesthesia and drain the abscess using a suction device.

How to prevent a tooth infection in the first place

You can save yourself from a tooth infection and a dentist appointment if you bear in mind the following two things;

1. Less Sugar Diet:

Studies show that a diet high in sugar is the root cause of any dental problem. Thus, you can prevent a tooth infection by consuming a low-sugar diet.

2. Oral Hygiene Maintenance:

Good oral hygiene is crucial to the prevention of oral diseases. There are two simple things that you need to do every day. These are;

  • Brushing Teeth – ADArecommends brushing teeth regularly, twice daily. This can be done more effectively if you use a smart toothbrush, which will set things on auto-pilot for you. Sonic electric toothbrushes at Oclean are one of a kind. Be sure to check them out.


  • Use Dental Floss – The recommendedtime to floss is to do it once daily. Water flossers are an alternative to traditional floss; you can use them as well.



Tooth pain should not be dealt with casually. Tooth infections can be fatal if they progress to sepsis. If you notice any sign of tooth infection, you should immediately visit a dentist. Preventing a tooth infection should be the major goal of every individual. Prevention can be achieved by brushing twice (with a manual or electric toothbrush) or using a dental floss or water flosser.

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