How to tell if you have a tooth infection

Are you wondering if you have a tooth infection? A tooth infection, also known as a dental abscess, is an accumulation of pus that forms at the root of a tooth or between the gum and a tooth. It is most commonly caused by tooth decay, but can also be the result of trauma to the tooth. Tooth infections are usually painful and always serious. Untreated, the infection can spread to other teeth and even other parts of the body, possibly becoming life-threatening. Perhaps you have put off a visit to your dentist longer than you should. How can you tell if you have a tooth infection? Here are six warning signs:

  1. A bad toothache. You may experience a gnawing or throbbing pain or sharp or shooting pain. Be aware that even if the toothache stops, the infection may still be active. In some cases, the pulp in the root of the tooth dies, so the pain may decrease or stop, but this does not mean the infection is healed.
  2. Swollen and red gums and/or swollen neck or jaw. You probably don't spend a lot of time looking at your gums, but they should be a nice, even pink. If the gum area near one of the teeth or the lymph glands under your jaw or in your neck are red, swollen, or painful, you may have an infection. Swelling in the neck or jaw can lead to difficulty swallowing or breathing. If that happens, you should seek immediate medical treatment.
  3. Pain when biting or chewing. A throbbing or gnawing pain when eating may be a sign of an abscessed tooth. Also pay attention to extreme sensitivity to hot and cold in your teeth, as well as sensitivity to sweets.
  4. Note any tooth discoloration. Examine your teeth and gums. An infected tooth may change to a yellow, grey or dark brown color. The discoloration is the result of “bruising” from the dying blood cells. Also check the gums around your teeth. You may see a gum boil, which is a pimple-like spot on the gum near the infected tooth. You may also see white pus in the sore or around the tooth. This is actually what causes the pain you are feeling.
  5. A Foul taste in your mouth. A foul taste in your mouth or very bad breath is another warning sign. If you have a severely infected tooth, pus may start to drain from the tooth or from a gum boil into your mouth. If this happens, your mouth will taste sour or metallic and have a noticeably bad smell. Don't just buy mouthwash. Call your dentist.
  6. Fever. You should always pay attention to a fever. Whether you have an infection in your body or your tooth, your body reacts by running a fever. A normal body temperature ranges from 97 to 99 degrees F. If you have a fever, the reading will be over 100.4 degrees F. Along with the fever, you may have a headache, chills, nausea, or just generally feel unwell. If you have a fever, your body is trying to tell you something.

You may think that the worse consequence of a tooth infection is that you lose the tooth, but an infected tooth can lead to damage to other organs in the body, (including your brain) or even fatal illness. Bacterial infections can become dangerous very quickly. If you have any signs of a tooth infection, see your dentist as soon as possible. If you have a fever, swelling, or trouble breathing or swallowing seek immediate medical attention.

If you are reluctant to visit the dentist, contact us. We offer state of the art dental care and will do everything possible to ensure that you are comfortable.

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