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10 Signs of Dental Infection You Shouldn’t Ignore

30 Aug 2023

Let’s be honest; there’s never a good time to get a toothache. Dental pain comes with its own set of worries. “Will the pain go away on its own? Or will I need to visit the dentist?” Finding time to visit us isn’t always easy, especially when problems appear suddenly. 

Whether the pain seems mild or severe, there’s usually a very good reason you’re experiencing it. Pain is a response to injury, illness, or inflammation. You feel pain as a warning. When you register pain, it’s your body’s way of telling your brain to take action. 

As inconvenient as dental pain may be, it usually signifies you have tooth decay, gum disease, or a dental infection. None of these problems should be ignored, especially dental infections. 

Here are ten symptoms of dental infection that should prompt you to take action and make an appointment immediately. 

1. You Have Sensitive Teeth

If your tooth’s enamel is compromised, you’ll typically experience sensitivity when you eat or drink hot or cold foods or beverages. While this symptom is an early indicator of tooth decay, you’ll experience it alongside a dental infection. 

There is a chamber of living tissue inside each of your teeth. This “pulp” chamber includes nerve endings. When infection first enters, the nerve endings become inflamed and more responsive to hot and cold against your weakened dental enamel. 

2. You Have a Sour Taste in Your Mouth or Bad Breath

If your breath smells or you have a bad taste in your mouth, regardless of how much you brush your teeth, floss, or rinse with mouthwash, there’s a strong possibility you have a dental infection. 

The bad smells and tastes may stem from the bacteria causing the infection. Although this symptom may cause embarrassment, it’s always best to have it checked out. 

3. Your Face, Gums, or Jaw Are Swollen

As the infection spreads, inflammation occurs. The damaged cells in your mouth cause the release of inflammatory cells. The result is swelling. Swelling is part of your body’s attempt at fighting infection, but that doesn’t mean it will win without help. 

You may notice the swelling initially appears at the gum line below the infected tooth. This will soon spread to your cheeks, jaws, and, eventually, to your lymph nodes. Swelling is often accompanied by a warm sensation. 

4. You Have Throbbing Pain in Your Mouth

Whether your tooth pain is mild or severe, don’t ignore it. A mild pain could be the onset of tooth decay or infection. The earlier you treat both, the easier and better it is. Decay leaves holes in the surface of your teeth so that bacteria can enter. The result is infection. 

Any throbbing pain may indicate bacteria have entered your tooth and your tissue has become inflamed as a defense strategy. That inflammation puts pressure on your nerve endings, resulting in excruciating pain. 

5. Any Pain Worsens When You Lie Down

When you have dental pain, it often gets worse when you lie down. You may find you’re in so much pain you can’t sleep. A couple of sleepless nights will take its toll on you, and your body will struggle to fight the infection. 

By removing the infection early, we can stop the pain so you can sleep again. The most common treatment for an infection is a root canal treatment. Here, we’ll carefully remove any infected matter and sterilise your tooth, saving it in the process. 

6. Your Gums Are Leaking Discharge

Discharge around your gum tissue is often a symptom of dental infection. You may have an abscess caused by bacteria, or it could be a sign of a serious health problem like leukaemia. 

It’s always best to see us promptly as we can fully assess and diagnose the cause. An abscess may require antibiotics or drainage, and you may need a root canal treatment. 

7. Your Tooth Has Changed Colour

While your tooth changing colour could be caused by depleted enamel, lifestyle choices like smoking, or trauma, dental infection is also a common cause. If a single tooth has turned grey, it could indicate the nerves inside your tooth have died. 

In some cases, your tooth may even turn black. Although the nerve is necrotic, we may still be able to save your tooth with a root canal treatment. 

8. You Struggle Opening Your Jaw

The pain and swelling from your dental infection may spread and make opening and closing your mouth difficult. Eating and speaking become hard when this happens. 

By treating your dental infection, we’ll quickly reduce inflammation and return full movement to your jaw.

9. Your Dental Pain Spreads to Your Head or Ears

As pain and inflammation spread, it can cause headaches and earaches. The throbbing sensation from the inflamed dental pulp can often be felt across the full length of your jaw, extending to your ears. Eventually, this constant sensation of pressure against your tooth will lead to headaches. 

While painkillers and anti-inflammatories may remove the discomfort, they won’t cure the infection. Without treatment, your dental infection will continue to spread. After destroying one tooth, it may claim more, cause serious gum and jaw problems, and even spread to your blood. 

Once a dental infection enters the bloodstream, it can move onto other parts of your body. As the infected blood eventually travels back through the heart, the bacteria could collect around your valves, causing life-threatening endocarditis or sepsis. 

In rare cases, dental infections can spread to the brain, causing abscesses to form —a problem which could slow the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. 

10. You Have a Fever

Fevers are a part of your immune system’s response to an infection. Here, your body’s natural thermostat is turned up to help you produce and retain heat. This increased heat makes it harder for the bacteria causing the infection to survive. 

You may experience a high temperature, sweating, weakness, muscle aches, dehydration, chills and shivering, and irritability. 

Although fevers have many non-dental causes, if yours coincides with some of the other symptoms mentioned here, it’s important to come and see us promptly. Antibiotics and root canal treatments can rid your body of infection and bring you back to a comfortable temperature. 

Fighting Dental Infections at Love Teeth

All of the symptoms listed in this guide are your body’s way of telling you that it needs your help. You may be embarrassed or nervous about coming to see us. Our friendly and supportive team are here to help, and we’ll ensure we work with you to maximise your comfort. 

If you believe you may have a dental infection, get in touch today and arrange an appointment in Stonecot, Sutton, Cheam, Chessington, or Worcester Park. 


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