Can a Tooth Infection Spread to Jaw

An infection in your tooth can turn into an abscess which is a pocket of pus at the root which can form beside the tooth, a periodontal abscess, or at the tip of the tooth roots, a periapical abscess. An abscess usually occurs as a result of an untreated tooth decay, an injury or prior dental work.

A periodontist can treat a tooth abscess by draining it to get rid of the infection and a round of antibiotics may be prescribed. They may be able to save your tooth with a root canal treatment, but in some cases the tooth may need to be pulled. Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can lead to serious, even life-threatening, complications.

What causes an abscess?

An abscess occurs when bacteria invade the dental pulp, the innermost part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue found in the root. Bacteria enter through either a dental cavity or crack in the tooth and left untreated, can spread all the way down to the root. The bacterial infection can cause swelling and inflammation at the tip of the root, causing an abscess to form.

Signs and Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess

Signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:

  • Sensitivity to hot and cold foods and beverages
  • Sensitivity to pressure when chewing or biting
  • Fever
  • Swelling in your face or cheek
  • A persistent throbbing toothache that can radiate to the jawbone, neck or ear
  • Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck

There are a few factors that may increase your risk of a tooth abscess which include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • A diet high in sugar
  • Dry mouth

Complications From a Tooth Abscess

A tooth abscess will not resolve on its own and requires treatment. If the abscess ruptures, the pain may decrease significantly but you still need treatment. If the abscess does not drain, the infection may spread to your jaw and to other areas of your head and neck. You might even develop sepsis which is a life-threatening infection that spreads throughout your body.

A weakened immune system can increase your risk of spreading infection if you leave a tooth abscess untreated.

When to See a Doctor

See your dentist promptly if you have any signs or symptoms of a tooth abscess. If you have a fever and swelling in your face and you are unable to reach your dentist, go to an emergency room; hospitals have a dentist on staff and will be able to help you. If you have trouble breathing or swallowing, it is vital to seek medical attention. These symptoms may indicate that the infection has spread deeper into your jaw and surrounding tissue or even to other areas of your body.

Preventing Tooth Abscess

Avoiding tooth decay is most essential to prevent a tooth abscess.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once a day
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or whenever the bristles begin to fray
  • Eat healthy food, limiting sugary treats
  • Visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings at least twice a year
  • Use a fluoride mouth rinse to add an extra layer of protection against tooth decay

Jaw Pain Tooth Related