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Warning Signs Your Tooth Infection Has Spread

Family and Cosmetic Dentist Located in Brooklyn, NY

Without proper treatment and care, tooth infections can spread to other areas of the mouth and lead to serious health concerns. Recognizing the warning signs of infection is essential so you don’t develop complications. Call Broadway Family Dental if you have persistent pain in your teeth, gums, or jaws and any other symptoms that indicate a spreading infection. Dr. Ella Dekhtyar understands how painful a dental abscess can be when it spreads beyond the tooth and focuses on timely detection and prevention. She offers painless treatments that help you feel better within the shortest possible time and ensure you enjoy strong, healthy teeth and gums for years.

A tooth infection, or a dental abscess, is commonly caused by bacteria that form inside the tooth of gum, invade dental pulp, and spread to surrounding tissues. A pocket of pus forms after bacteria make their way in through an opening in the tooth’s enamel surface.

While many dental infections develop in the soft core of a tooth, abscesses can occur in different areas near the tooth, the surrounding bone, and sometimes the nearby teeth. A tooth infection can be painful, but it can be resolved when addressed without delay.

What Happens When a Tooth Infection Spreads?

In most cases, tooth infections are easily treatable, but when left untreated, they can turn serious and cause other problems. Untreated dental abscess can destroy the affected tooth, even spread to the face and neck, turn quite painful, and take longer to treat. It is rare for a tooth infection to spread to more distant parts of the body. However, if it happens, it can lead to severe consequences.

A tooth infection will not go away if it does not receive the right treatment. You may feel less pain once the abscesses rupture, but dental treatment is still necessary. If the abscess is not drained by a dentist, the infection can spread throughout the mouth and into your jaw. Infection that affects the jaw can harm the soft tissue surrounding this area.

A tooth can look perfectly normal, but it could still be infected and abscessed.

Read on to learn more about the causes, signs, and symptoms of a tooth infection spreading and how to treat such infections and prevent them to reduce further complications.

Tooth Infection


It starts with a toothache. If your sore and throbbing tooth is left untreated, it can become infected. If your infected tooth is not treated, the infection could continue spreading.

Common causes of a tooth infection are:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Untreated dental decay
  • Gum disease
  • Dental trauma
  • Common dental procedures

In case of dental decay or trauma, bacteria invade the tooth pulp through an opening in the enamel, such as decay, crack, or chip. It can also result from gum disease or infection that starts in the gum tissues and spreads to the root of your tooth, or an opening in the enamel along the gumline.


The buildup of pus and the tissue swelling within or around the infected tooth often causes severe, acute toothache. This type of pain is continuous and is often described as sharp, stabbing, or throbbing, although the level varies from person to person.

It is important to recognize the warning signs and symptoms of a lingering and spreading infection to prevent it from causing further damage.

Other symptoms include:

  • Tooth pain when chewing or biting
  • Pain that extends beyond teeth and gums
  • Foul breath and bitter taste
  • Increased dental sensitivity
  • Localized gum tissue swelling
  • Swelling in the face, cheek or neck that may lead to difficulty in breathing or swallowing
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or in the neck
  • Sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in your mouth, and pain relief, if the abscess ruptures

If you experience any of these symptoms, call your dentist right away. Untreated dental infections can lead to other serious complications, which may not be so easy to treat.


An infected tooth needs urgent dental care. Abscess treatment focuses on curing the infection, saving the tooth, and preventing complications.

Dentists treat tooth abscess by draining it and getting rid of the infection. They prescribe a course of antibiotics and painkillers to relieve your toothache and fever. In some cases, root canal therapy can save an infected tooth, but in severe instances, surgery is needed to drain the abscess and reduce the swelling and pressure. A tooth severely decayed or damaged may need extraction as it cannot be restored.

Leaving a tooth abscess untreated could affect your overall health and even become life-threatening.

Complications of an Untreated Abscess

A tooth infection does not go away on its own. Without proper treatment and care, it can spread to the local tissues and even the rest of the body.

If the abscess is not drained, the infection may spread to the surrounding jawbone tissue, gum tissues, soft tissues inside the cheek, or other areas of the face and neck. It may cause sepsis, a serious medical condition in which the immune system severely overreacts to an infection in the blood, potentially putting your life at risk.

If the abscess is in the back of your mouth, the infection can spread to the sinuses. In case you have a weakened immune system and leave a tooth abscess untreated, your risk of spreading infection increases even more.

Signs Your Tooth Infection Has Spread

Sometimes, a tooth abscess ruptures, flooding your mouth with its metallic-tasting pus and offering instant relief from pain. It does not mean the infection is no longer a concern. A ruptured abscess may just be the first sign that it is spreading.

Other signs of an abscessed tooth include:

  • General feeling of fatigue and being unwell
  • Persistent, severe toothache that radiates to the ear, neck, and jawbone
  • Tooth pain when chewing
  • High fever
  • Chills
  • Swelling on the face
  • Open, draining sore on the side of your gums
  • Increased heart rate or lightheadedness
  • Unexplained stomach pain, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Gum redness and swelling
  • Loosening of the tooth
  • Swollen area in your upper or lower jaw

Persistently high fever, dizziness, lightheadedness, rapid heart rate, confusion, shortness of breath, and digestive problems are signs of sepsis and should be considered a medical emergency. Call your dentist for a same-day appointment if you are having any of these symptoms in addition to a toothache.

How to Prevent a Tooth Infection?

The best way to prevent a tooth infection is through regular dental checkups. Timely detection and treatment of tooth decay and early gum disease, also known as gingivitis, can reduce your chances of developing an infection. Also, treating dental traumas, such as enamel chips, cracks, or broken teeth right away can lower the risk of infection.

Lifestyle changes that help to maintain optimal oral health for life include:

  • Proper dental hygiene, which includes brushing twice a day
  • Flossing daily
  • Using mouthwash to get rid of unwanted bacteria
  • Limiting the intake of sugary foods
  • Drinking fluoridated water
  • Replacing your toothbrush every three months

Regular dental visits and cleanings also prevent tooth decay and gum issues that often lead to dental abscesses.

A tooth infection can affect your life and work by causing debilitating pain. It becomes impossible to perform daily life activities when you are in so much pain. Not only this, there is also a risk of developing other life-threatening conditions originating from the infected tooth.

An abscessed tooth indicates advanced bacterial infection, which leads to complications if it is not treated timely. The sooner you see a dentist, the greater chance you have of saving your tooth, and proper dental care can relieve the pain and discomfort. At Broadway Family Dental, Dr. Ella Dekhtyar and her dedicated team specialize in identifying and saving abscessed teeth. They use advanced dental technology to diagnose and treat tooth infections and other dental problems. She comes up with the best treatment options which minimize complications, provide relief from infection, and prevent it from spreading to other parts.

If you suspect you have a tooth infection or need treatment for a tooth abscess, call our New York office today and schedule your appointment now!

Page Updated on May 17, 2024 by Dr. Dekhtyar (Dentist) of Broadway Family Dental

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