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Infected Tooth Complications

Infected Tooth Complications

Infected tooth complications are less common in occurrence. However, when they do occur and left untreated, they can give rise to severe situations, sometimes, even life-threatening ones.
HealthHearty Staff
Last Updated: Jun 3, 2018
Infected tooth, more appropriately, is known as dental abscess or tooth abscess. It is characterized by the collection of pus in the teeth or gums. And this is triggered by a bacterial infection. Bacteria are normally present in the mouth, and together with saliva and byproduct of food, they form what is known as plaque. With time, untreated plaque damages the teeth and gums, and this allows bacteria into the inner tooth. This part of the tooth (known as the dental pulp) contains blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue. So once the bacteria is in, they spread into the root, and cause swelling and inflammation. This causes pus to form into a pocket at the tip of the root, and this is known as tooth abscess.
Complications of Tooth Infection
›› The first complication that may arise is the untreated infection, going further down the root of the infected tooth. There, the infection can develop a fluid-filled cavity known as dental cyst. The formation of the cyst often indicates that the infected tooth and nerves attached to it are dying. A dental cyst can be a source of great pain, and it may also weaken the jaw of the affected person, and till a point wherein, the normal mouth's function gets interrupted.
›› Another complication that may occur as a result of an untreated tooth abscess is when the infection spreads, and infects the floor of the mouth. The area that is particularly affected is underneath the tongue. Besides causing pain and swelling in this part, this complication may also cause:
  • difficulty in breathing
  • pain and swelling in the neck
  • fever
  • drooling
  • earache
  • excess fatigue
›› One severe complication that may occur from an untreated infected tooth is sepsis; potentially life-threatening. It occurs when the immune system reacts to the infection in such a way that, it damages body tissues that are far away from where the infection has actually occurred. Left untreated, different organs may get affected, eventually causing a blood pressure drop that can prove fatal to the affected person. Symptoms of this complication may include:
  • fever that may shoot above 101.3 ºF (38.5 ºC) or go below than 95 ºF (35 ºC)
  • the person's heart may beat more than 90 bpm
  • the person may breathe in a rate of 20 breaths a minute
If these symptoms progress to or are accompanied by difficulty in breathing, abnormal changes in mental condition, decreased urination, and the skin developing spots or patches of color, then the person may be diagnosed with a case of severe sepsis.
›› One rare but, probably, the most severe of all complications that may occur from an untreated infection of the tooth such as tooth abscess, is associated with the brain. It occurs when the bacteria spread and cause a blood clot at the base of the brain. It is known as cavernous sinus thrombosis (CST), and given the severe nature of the condition, it requires immediate treatment. Symptoms that may indicate its development include:
  • loss of vision
  • headaches
  • drooping eyelids
  • headaches
  • bulging eyes
›› When the bacteria that have already infected the tooth, find their way into the bloodstream, they can start infecting the bone that surrounds the infected site. However, as the bacteria spread through the bloodstream, they can infect any bone in the body. Symptoms that may be caused by this complication are:
  • fever
  • chills
  • lethargy (especially in young children)
  • pain in the infected bone
  • swelling and reddening of the affected area
›› Another complication that may result when bacteria from the infected tooth invade the blood stream, is known as endocarditis. Although, rare, it is a potentially life-threatening condition that is marked by the inflammation of the lining of the heart muscle and its valves. If the patient with tooth abscess also has a certain heart condition, then he becomes more vulnerable to develop this complication. Symptoms may include:
  • heart murmur
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • aching joints
  • muscles
  • night sweats
  • breath shortness
  • cough that won't go away
  • abnormal weight loss
  • presence of blood in the urine
  • night sweats
The main treatment of tooth abscess is to drain the pus that has collected in the tooth, and get rid of the infection. Root canal is a procedure with the help of which the infected pulp can be removed, and the abscess can be drained, without affecting the tooth. However, in some cases, the tooth gets damaged to such an extent that extracting it becomes a necessity. So after the tooth is extracted, the pus is drained. In cases, wherein, the infection has spread beyond what it has infected locally, antibiotics may come in handy. Otherwise, simply draining the abscess is enough to get rid of the infection, and prevent complications such the ones as described above.