Most dental infections are caused either by a tooth or the surrounding gums. Also known as dental abscess, a dental infection of the mouth, jaw, or throat usually begins as a tooth infection or cavity. When cavities and gum related issues are left untreated, teeth can decay and bacteria can spread to surrounding areas of the mouth and jaw, and cause infection. Dental infections can have significant medical ramifications if left untreated.
Causes of Dental Infections
Dental infections are usually caused by poor oral hygiene and a lack of proper dental care. Infection can sometimes be the result of severe gum disease. Dental infections may also occur in people with underlying medical conditions such as autoimmune disorders or conditions that weaken the immune system such as diabetes or chemotherapy. Dental abscesses can also be triggered by minor trauma in the oral cavity.
Symptoms of Dental Infections
Common symptoms of dental infections may include:
- Redness and tenderness
- Fever and chills in advanced cases
In extremely severe cases, the infection can spread from tooth to the surrounding soft tissues resulting in life-threatening conditions.
Complications of Dental Infections
If left untreated, dental infections can be very serious. The untreated bacteria from the infection may enter the bloodstream through the gum tissue, affecting the lungs, heart and other parts of the body. It is possible for the bacteria to travel to the arteries of the heart, where they can cause inflammation and a possible narrowing of the arteries that may contribute to heart attacks. Because of these possible complications, it is important to seek prompt medical attention for a dental infection.
Treatment of Dental Infections
Treatment of dental infections can vary and may include:
- Removing the source of infection
- Use of antibiotics
- Area drainage for an abscess
Common dental procedures such as applying fillings and crowns are often performed if the infection is due to an untreated cavity. If the pulp of the tooth is infected with bacteria,a root canal may be necessary. Finally, extraction can also serve as treatment for dental infection if the tooth is too far destroyed from the decay process.
Prevention of Dental Infections
To prevent dental infections, patients are advised to practice good oral hygiene that includes, brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits.