How to Recognise and Treat a Tooth Infection Before it Spreads

A toothache can present itself in many forms with different levels of discomfort. Ignoring a seemingly “mild” or intermittent pain hoping to deal with it another day could worsen the condition or lead to a more significant health emergency later on.

Keep in mind that most dental problems also cannot be cured via oral medications like Antibiotics. These antibiotics are unable to reach the bacteria hidden deep within an infected tooth. 

However, antibiotics and painkillers such as Ibuprofen and Paracetamol help aid to alleviate symptoms of dental infection and pain until your dentist can attend to you.

The following are some toothache-associated signs and symptoms to look out for. They can suggest the presence of more serious underlying dental problems, thereby indicating the need for urgent attention.

There is lingering sensitivity after you eat/drink something cold or hot

Sensitivity or pain arises when the collection of nerves and tissue within the core of a tooth (otherwise known as the tooth pulp) becomes irritated. This irritation could happen either through trauma (such as cracking a tooth or persistent teeth grinding) or infection (such as deep decay or broken filling).

Any discomfort that persists for more than a few seconds after being triggered most often indicates a more severe pulp inflammation or ‘dying’ pulp.

Your toothache is severe and spontaneous

If your tooth aches on its own even without a trigger or worsens in the nighttime when you lay down may mean that the pulp tissues are severely inflamed, particularly so if the pain is severe and throbbing.

You have a ‘pimple’ or swelling on the gum around the painful tooth

Swelling in the gums can arise from gum infection/disease or from an infection having spread from a damaged tooth. 

Occasionally, you may feel pressure or notice a bad taste without a lot of pain from a tooth associated with a gum boil/swelling. But such pockets of pus could indicate an abscess from an active infection. This infection can spread to the jaws and cause permanent damage if left untreated.

You have a swelling of the jaw/face

A facial swelling usually indicates a sign of more severe infection. If coupled with fever or trouble breathing/swallowing, emergency dental assistance should be sought out immediately. 

These symptoms usually mean that the infection within the gums/teeth has spread to the surrounding bone or soft tissues. In these cases, to manage the condition, antibiotics might be necessary together with active dental treatment.

When should a child see a dentist?

A professional recommendation is that a child’s first visit should be when the first tooth erupts in the mouth, no later than age one to two. 

These early visits would familiarise children to a dental setting and the examination process from a young age. It involves touching sensitive areas such as the mouth and tongue that could be personal and intrusive to a child. 

The dentist will be able to do a quick examination, identify early decay, check the gums, jaw, and bite, frenum issues, mouth breathing tendency and improper oral habits that may affect teeth alignment or speech patterns.

Early intervention with habit correction therapy

Do Not Panic !

If you experience one or more of the abovementioned symptoms – first things first, do not panic! 

However, we strongly recommended you book an appointment with one of our dentists as soon as possible, to determine the best course of action. 

Severe pulp inflammation and dental infection, as described above, typically require treatment in the form of a root canal treatment or extraction. Both of which are very commonly done and are painless.