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Infected Tooth - Extraction, Symptoms, Treatment, Causes, Pictures

Updated on January 7, 2014


What is an Infected Tooth?

A tooth is an essential component in the process of digestion. The food initially has to be masticated before it can be swallowed and sent to the stomach for the proper digestion before the nutrient in the food can be absorbed by the body. The tooth is the hardest bone that can be found in the body and is essential not only for chewing but also plays an important role in speech.

An infected tooth is among the classifications of dental infection and is also known as tooth abscess. It is characterized by the formation of pus that can occur in any part or region of the tooth. The pus collection is usually the result of a bacterial infection.

Periapical abscess is the most common type of dental infection which generally occurs at the tip of the root of the tooth and infection is usually inside the tooth. The dental pulp is the nerve that is usually infected which causes a lot of pain and discomfort to the patient.

An infection that occurs between the gum and the root of the tooth is also considered by some dental professionals as tooth infection or tooth abscess. This type of tooth infection is referred to as periodontal and the bacteria infect the gums.

Tooth infection is a common occurrence that affects both male and female regardless of age and racial group. It is generally a non-life threatening condition although the onset of pain is sudden and which usually gets worse over several hours to several days until the infection has been addressed.


Pain is the most common symptom of an infected tooth which can be defined as throbbing, shooting and persistent. The pain can also be severe that it can affect the daily activities although there are some who do not feel pain while the infection may go unnoticed until a visit to the dentist. An extreme pain is usually felt and is usually aggravated when pressure is applied or warmth is applied over the affected area. The pain may also radiate to the ear, the lower jaw and neck and which can be a lot discomforting.

The common symptoms of an infected tooth include the following:

  • A sudden onset of toothache or extreme continuous pain associated with the tooth and which can be described as throbbing and sharp and usually gets worse over several hours or a few days
  • Inability to chew food due to significant pain or toothache
  • Increased sensitivity of the affected tooth to temperature
  • General discomfort or a general feeling of illness
  • Increased sensitivity to pressure
  • A gush of foul-smelling and foul taste of fluid in the mouth
  • Tender and palpable lymph nodes under the jaw
  • Foul odor of breath
  • An obvious swelling on the cheek in the area of the affected tooth
  • Change of taste in the mouth often a bitter taste
  • Fever may also occur

If tooth infection is left untreated the infection may spread to other parts of the body which can result to a serious medical complication. It is therefore important to take notice of the signs and symptoms and to seek immediate medical attention and such signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Onset of high grade fever
  • General swelling of the face
  • Severe pain that remains unresponsive to treatment
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Difficulty in breathing


A tooth infection occurs when bacteria invade and infect the deepest portion of the tooth or the part that which contains nerves, connective tissues and blood vessels. The bacteria can only infect the dental pulp when tiny particles found its way through the dental pulp. When the food particles penetrate deeply into the dental pulp, this in turn will become an irritant. The body will react by creating an infection or pus to eradicate the collection of irritating particles out of the body.

The tiny particles or food particles make its way to the dental pulp through the following channels:

  • Dental caries are tiny holes that result from tooth decay and formed in the enamel of the tooth. The dental caries will break down the enamel of the tooth and the dentine until it will eventually reach the pulp.
  • Injury in tooth such as a crack or chip is also another way for the bacteria to invade and infect the innermost layer of the tooth.

Risk factors are also considered to the incidence of tooth infection and such include the following:

  • Improper or poor oral hygiene increases the chance of developing dental abscess. Food particles that remain in between the teeth and gums can result to collection of plaque which later on can result to dental caries.
  • Improper diet is also a risk factor considered in tooth infection. The inclusion of too much sweets and starchy food in the diet puts one at risk for developing tooth infection.
  • Weak immune system can affect the teeth and may be due to underlying conditions such as diabetes.


The goal of treatment in tooth infection is to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation while eliminating and preventing the spread of infection to other parts of the body. It is necessary to treat an infected tooth because if it is left untreated, the abscess may enlarge and leads to perforation in bone and other soft tissues leading to a more serious medical complication.

Antibiotic is the treatment for an infected tooth but it is important to determine first the type of bacteria that has infected the dental pulp to treat the condition properly and effectively. The antibiotic however is only prescribed if the infection has reached the areas adjacent to the infected tooth.

Incision and drainage of abscess are another form of treatment where the dentist will put a small incision on the abscess then drains out the pus.


Extraction of the tooth is the procedure where an extremely damaged tooth which cannot be saved anymore is totally removed from its roots. The abscess is then drained out after the tooth has been extracted to totally eliminate the infection. The procedure is usually done with the patient under local anesthesia and healing time usually takes a few days. Tooth extraction is recommended if aside from a severely damaged tooth, the abscess remains untreated or infection cannot be eliminated despite conservative approach of treatment.


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