Ultimate Guide: Dental Infection

Dental infections, also known as dental abscesses, are not just a source of severe pain but can also be a gateway to more serious health issues if neglected. These infections occur deep within the structures of the oral cavity, including the teeth and gums, and can extend their impact to the face and neck. 

This ultimate guide is designed to arm you with essential knowledge about dental infections. We will explore the various types, causes, and symptoms of these infections to help you identify them early. Understanding the underlying factors can be crucial in preventing occurrence and deciding on the right course of action for treatment.

What Is A Dental Infection? 

A dental infection is an infection that occurs in the mouth, either in the teeth, gums, or surrounding tissues. These infections are typically caused by bacteria that enter the mouth through dental problems like cavities, gum disease, or injuries to the teeth or gums. 

Causes Of Dental Infections 

There are several underlying problems which can cause dental infections, including: 

  • Tooth Decay: When bacteria in the mouth produce acid that erodes the protective enamel layer of the tooth, it can lead to cavities and eventually allow bacteria to reach the inner pulp, causing an infection. 
  • Gum Disease: Bacterial buildup around the gums can cause inflammation and infection of the gum tissue, which can eventually spread to the bones and supporting structures of the teeth. 
  • Dental Trauma: Injuries to the teeth or mouth, such as cracks, chips, or fractures, can provide an entry point for bacteria, leading to an infection. 
  • Impacted Wisdom Teeth: When wisdom teeth (third molars) fail to erupt properly, they can become trapped in the jawbone, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and increasing the risk of infection. 

While these are some of the most common causes, dental infections can also develop because of other factors, such as compromised immune systems, certain medical conditions, or even complications from dental procedures. Regardless of the underlying cause, prompt treatment is essential to prevent the infection from spreading and causing further complications. 

Symptoms Of Dental Infections 

The symptoms of a dental infection can vary depending on the severity and location of the infection. In some cases, the symptoms may be mild initially but can quickly worsen if left untreated. These common signs and symptoms can include: 

  • Swollen and tender gyms around the affected tooth 
  • Facial swelling 
  • Fever 
  • Bad breath 
  • Difficulty swallowing or opening the mouth 
  • Lymph node swelling in the neck or jaw area 

It’s important to note that not all dental infections present with obvious symptoms, especially in the early stages. If you experience any of these symptoms or notice any unusual changes in your mouth, it’s essential to seek prompt dental treatment to prevent the infection from worsening and potentially spreading to other parts of the body. 

Diagnosing Dental Infections 

If you happen to be experiencing any symptoms that suggest a potential dental infection, it’s important to visit your dentist for a proper diagnosis.  

If your dentist suspects you have a dental infection, they will perform a thorough examination to identify the source and extent. This may involve a visual inspection of your mouth, teeth, and gums for signs of infection like swelling, redness, or pus. Dental X-rays also allow your dentist to see below the surface and detect any decay, bone loss, or abscesses. 

Your dentist may also use a periodontal probe to measure gum pocket depths and check for gum disease. Pulp testing evaluates whether the innermost layer of the tooth is infected. In some cases, a sample may be sent for microbiological testing to identify the specific bacteria present.  

By combining these diagnostic approaches, it allows your dentist to pinpoint the infection type and location to develop an effective treatment plan.

Treatment Options For Dental Infections 

The type of treatment you receive will depend on several factors, including the underlying cause, severity, and extent of the infection. 

  • Antibiotics: In severe cases of an infection, you may be prescribed antibiotics to help fight the bacteria and prevent the infection from spreading. 
  • Dental Restorations: If the infection is caused by a cavity or tooth decay, your dentist may recommend a filling, crown, or other dental restoration to remove the decayed area and restore the tooth’s function and integrity. 
  • Root Canal Treatment: If the infection has reached the inner pulp of the tooth, a root canal procedure may be necessary to remove the infected or inflamed pulp, disinfect the root canal system, and seal the tooth to prevent further infection. 
  • Tooth Extraction: In cases of severe infection or when the tooth cannot be saved, your dentist may recommend extracting (removing) the affected tooth to prevent the spread of the infection. 
  • Periodontal Treatment: If the infection is related to gum disease, your dentist may perform a deep cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing to remove plaque and tartar buildup and smooth the tooth roots to help the gums reattach to the teeth. 
  • Incision & Drainage: In cases of a dental abscess (a localized pocket of pus), your dentist may make a small incision to drain the abscess and relieve pressure and pain. 
  • Pain Management: Depending on the severity of the infection, you may be prescribed pain medication or recommend over the counter pain relievers to help manage discomfort during the healing process. 

Preventing Dental Infections 

While dental infections can be treated, prevention is key. Maintaining good oral hygiene through regular brushing and flossing is crucial for removing plaque and bacteria that can lead to infections. Attending dental check-ups and cleanings allows your dentist to catch and address any potential issues before an infection develops. 

Limiting sugary and acidic foods that feed harmful oral bacteria is also important. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of gum disease and infections. For those participating in sports, wearing a mouthguard helps prevent dental trauma that could allow bacteria entry. 

By prioritising preventive dental care through good oral hygiene habits, a tooth-friendly diet, and protective measures, you can significantly minimise your chances of developing a painful and costly dental infection. 

Next Steps 

In conclusion, dental infections can be painful and potentially serious if left untreated. By understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options, as well as practicing good oral hygiene and attending regular dental check-ups, you can help prevent and effectively manage dental infections. 

At e-Surgery, we understand the importance of prompt and effective treatment for dental infections. This is why we offer a wide range of dental infection treatments. 

Additionally, our ‘Ask-a-Pharmacist‘ service allows you to consult with trained UK healthcare pharmacists who can provide guidance on managing your condition and answer any questions you may have about your treatment options or prescribed medications.