Can A Tooth Infection Kill You?

by Power Road Dental Care

Can A Tooth Infection Kill You?

Reviewed By Dr. Tyler N Davis, DMD

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Often, tooth infections are brushed off as minor, but they can have serious consequences if ignored. Let’s take a look at why taking care of our teeth is not just about a nice smile but also about keeping our whole body healthy.

What is a Tooth Infection?

A tooth infection happens when harmful bacteria infect the dental pulp, the inside part of the tooth containing nerves and blood vessels. It can stem from untreated cavities, gum disease, or injury, leading to an abscess – a pus-filled pocket resulting from bacterial infection.

How Serious Can It Get?

While you may dismiss a toothache as a minor nuisance, the reality can be far more severe. Without quick treatment, an infection can spread beyond the mouth, leading to life-threatening complications like:

  • Sepsis: An extreme body response, potentially disrupting organ function and leading to death.
  • Brain abscess: Infection that spreads to the brain and causes inflammation and pressure.
  • Ludwig’s Angina: A life-threatening bacterial infection (cellulitis) that starts with a tooth infection and affects your neck and the floor of your mouth, closing off your airway.
  • Endocarditis: In very rare cases, a tooth infection can cause inflammation of the lining of the heart. 

Necrotizing fasciitis: A rapid, flesh-eating infection causing tissue death.

Key Takeaway

Ignoring tooth infections can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. Regular visits to the dentist and good oral care are key to staying safe and healthy.

The Timeline: From Infection to Emergency

A tooth infection can have an unpredictable timeline. While some people may experience symptoms immediately, others may not notice anything until the infection has spread beyond the mouth.

Initially, what may seem like a small cavity or minor toothache can escalate into a more serious condition. Without timely intervention, bacteria can penetrate deeper into the tooth, reaching the pulp and causing infection.

As this infection progresses, it can form an abscess that causes intense pain and swelling. The speed at which this happens can vary, but usually, it’s a slow process that takes several months.

The slow progression highlights how crucial it is to detect and treat the infection early. Delaying care can make the infection worse and potentially result in more severe health issues.

Who Is Most at Risk? 

Individuals at risk for severe complications from tooth infections include:

  • Diabetics
  • Undernourished individuals
  • Individuals with weakened immune systems
  • Older adults

For these groups, proactive dental care and regular monitoring are particularly important to prevent severe complications from tooth infections.

Prevention Is Key

Prevention truly is your first line of defense against tooth infections. Steps like:

  1. Regular dental check-ups and cleanings are crucial because they allow for early detection. Treatments like fillings or root canals are important solutions to stop any issues before they escalate. 
  2. Proper oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing, is essential in keeping harmful bacteria at bay. 
  3. A healthy diet, rich in vitamins and minerals, supports strong teeth and gums. 

At Power Road Dental Care, we strongly advocate for routine dental care as a key strategy in preventing tooth decay and infections. Remember, catching problems early through regular check-ups can save you from more serious health complications in the future.

Healthy Teeth = Healthy Body

A tooth infection, even if it seems minor, can escalate into a life-threatening emergency. Recognizing symptoms early, maintaining oral hygiene, and seeking timely dental care are key to preventing severe health complications. 

Your oral health is our priority, and we’re committed to educating and treating our community to ensure a healthy, happy smile. If you are in the East Valley and are searching for ‘dental exam near me’ or ‘dentist in Mesa, AZ’, we can help. To book an appointment, call (480) 664-1438 or complete the online booking form.


How long until a tooth infection becomes life-threatening?

The timeline for a tooth infection to become life-threatening varies greatly. It can begin as a minor issue and progress over months or even years. Factors like your overall health, the effectiveness of your immune system, and how quickly the infection is treated play a role.

What are the early signs of a tooth infection?

Early signs include toothache, sensitivity to hot or cold, swelling in the gum, and a foul taste in the mouth. If you notice these symptoms, see a dentist promptly.

Can a tooth infection be treated without going to the dentist?

Professional dental care is essential. While pain relief and antibiotics can temporarily manage symptoms, a dentist must address the underlying cause.

What happens if a tooth infection is left untreated?

An untreated infection can lead to abscesses, spread to other parts of the body, and cause life-threatening conditions like sepsis or Ludwig’s Angina.

Are there home remedies for tooth infections?

While home remedies may offer temporary relief, they cannot cure an infection. Only a dentist can provide appropriate treatment.

How can I reduce my risk of tooth infection?

Regular dental check-ups, maintaining good oral hygiene, and a balanced diet are key to preventing tooth infections.

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