Many of us know the feeling of having one of our teeth infected at some point in our life. The pain and swelling associated with these abscesses can be unbearable at times. Many of these infections arise all of a sudden, and can hinder our ability to carry out our daily activities. But where does a tooth infection originate from? Can it be eliminated with medications? These are a few of the questions that we will tackle in this article, as well as some home remedies that can calm some of the discomfort that you may be having.
What are the symptoms of a tooth infection?
A lot of people who experience their first tooth infection know exactly what it feels like. Here is a list of symptoms to note if you happen to develop a tooth abscess:
- Pain: Because the infection will compress on nerves in the region of your tooth, you may experience very bad pain until the infection is properly treated. The pain will more than likely be constant, but sometimes will come and go throughout the days.
- Swelling: A dental infection may lead to swelling in the affected area. This may even result in your face swelling up due to the abscess spreading to spaces that surround your tooth structure.
- Fever: Some patients develop in low grade fever when a tooth infection comes about. This could be very dangerous, and your body is warning you of the threat that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.
- Difficulty breathing: Severe dental infections may even lead to airway problems (as seen with Ludwigs Angina). These patients end up being hospitalized, and may need to undergo surgery to drain the pockets of infection that are hindering their normal breathing habits.
What is the best antibiotic to treat to a tooth infection?
There are a variety of antibiotics that clinicians prescribe to treat a tooth abscess. The following are a list of the most common medications prescribed to patients that have developed a tooth infection:
- Amoxicillin: This antibiotic comes in 500mg capsules. It is the standard choice to treat dental infections. Patients with Penicillin allergies should let there dentists know as they will more than likely have an allergic reaction to this medication as well. Normally a course of 21 tablets is taken over a 7 day period to mitigate the infection that has formed around your tooth. Medications like amoxicillin have been shown to temporarily stop tooth pain as the abscess is lessened for a short period of time.
- Clindamycin: This is a another common medication that attacks the bacteria that causes a dental infection. This antibiotic is stronger than Amoxicillin and is usually perscribed for larger dental infections, especially those that cause facial swellings. One of the big drawbacks of this medication is that it can cause gastrointestinal disturbances including diarrhea for many patients. If you suffer from GI problems while taking Clindamycin, let your clinician know immediately.
- Augmentin: Many patients are developing drug resistance to common antibiotics like Amoxicillin. Augmentin is a combination of amoxicillin and an ingredient called Clavulanic Acid. This latter compound helps the medicine penetrate into the bacterial colonies that are causing the infection, and is especially useful for those with Amoxicillin resistance. It is also the drug of choice for patients who have developed a sinus infection that originates from their tooth.
Remember that although these antibiotics may help temporarily remedy your dental infection, your infection will come back unless the source of the infection is addressed. A tooth extraction or a root canal may end up being need to completely resolve your tooth abscess woes.
How quickly can a tooth abscess spread to the jaw?
Because many teeth are surrounded by spaces, a tooth infection can quickly spread into your jawbones. This normally can take between a few days to a few weeks depending on how well your body handles the initial pocket of infection. These teeth need to be addressed quickly as tooth abscesses can rapidly spread to other regions of the body, and can lead to an infection of your blood stream (known as sepsis). Tooth infections that spread to the jaw can also lead to a condition called osteomyelitis of the jawbone, an infected condition that may end up requiring jaw resection and surgery.
How long can a tooth infection go untreated?
The answer to this question will depend on your immune system, and how well it handles the infection. Some dental infections can spread rapidly, while others remain localized for days to weeks at a time. We recommend having your infection addressed as soon as possible by a highly trained dentist or surgeon to prevent any serious dental and systemic emergencies from occurring.
If you are suffering from a tooth abscess in the Houston area, come visit our highly trained experts at Best Dental. With cutting edge technologies we can identify and treat your tooth infection and have you back on the road to recovery in no time.
Other frequently asked questions (FAQ)
If I have a tooth infection and I can't see a dentist what should I do?
The best course of action in this situation is to visit an emergency room that have oral surgery residents on staff. These doctors are trained to handle swellings and other abscesses in the ER and can help you temporarily resolve any issues that you may be having. They may end up draining your abscess in the ER and applying a penrose drain to prevent the infection from collecting in that area again. They will tell you to follow up with your dentist to remove the tooth that is causing the infection as well as to remove the drain that was placed in the area.
Can I treat a tooth abscess from home?
We certainly do not encourage anyone to try to remedy a tooth abscess by themselves at home. Attempting to drain the abscess may lead to a worsening infection that can quickly spread leading to hospitalization and a potentially life threatening emergency. If you have an abscess please see a trained clinician as soon as you can.
Can salt water rinses help with my tooth infection?
Salt water rinses are recommended until you can see your dentist. Since salt has properties that can eliminate bacteria, they can help keep your infection from worsening until a trained clinician can see what is causing the problem. You can rinse as many times as you want during the day, but always remember that this is a temporary remedy. The source of the infection will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Will the ER (emergency room) extract my infected tooth?
Since most ERs do not have trained dentists on staff, they do not have the ability to remove your tooth. What most emergency physicians will do is prescribe your pain medication and antibiotics until you can see your dentist. They may give you an IV antibiotic if your dental infection is severe (these severe cases may lead to the hospital team admitting you for further evaluation until you are released).
If my tooth is infected, can my dentist still extract it?
Contrary to popular opinion, an infected tooth can be removed by a highly trained dentist or oral surgeon. If the clinician decides that the infection may quickly spread, he or she may decide it’s best to remove the tooth immediately. Some dentists may place you on a course of antibiotics to help minimize the swelling before your extraction, but if a tooth removal has to be performed, your dentists can do it right then and there.
How long can a tooth infection last?
Dental infections can last indefinitely until the culprit or the source of the problem is addressed. If the infection is originating from your tooth, then unless the tooth is properly removed or has a root canal performed on it, the infection will never entirely go away. Remember that antibiotics only remedy the infection, they do not eliminate the entirely.
How long does it take for an antibiotic to work on a tooth infection?
In most cases, once the concentration of the medication builds up in your system, your infection should begin to calm itself down. The normally takes between 2-3 days for enough medicine to be present in your body to soothe the discomfort that you are having from your tooth abscess.
Will a rotten tooth eventually fall out?
Most times, a rotten tooth will not come out on its own. The crown portion of the tooth may fall apart, but the root of the tooth remains embedded in your jawbone. This can lead to a more severe infection that must be treated immediately with a tooth extraction. If you are suffering from a tooth that is breaking down, see your dentist as soon as possible.
Can a pharmacist perscribe an antibiotic for my tooth infection?
Unfortunately, only a dentist can physically prescribe the medicines needed for a tooth infection. A pharmacist only has the ability to fill the prescription, and follow the doctors orders.
Is a tooth abscess a dental emergency?
Since these infections can spread so quickly, an infection originating from your tooth is considered to be a dental emergency. A trained clinician needs to be seen immediately to find out where the source of the infection is coming from, and how to quickly treat it before the abscess begins to spread to other regions in your body.
Can home remedies like garlic help with my tooth infection?
Since a tooth infection develops within spaces near your jawbone, home remedies like silver and garlic normally do not help with the abscess. As mentioned previously, the source of the infection must be addressed with proper dental treatment (normally a dental extraction) to rid your body of the ailment.