Dental Emergencies Unraveled: Dealing with a Tooth Infection

If you have ever had an infected tooth, you know how painful it can be. But did you know that an infected tooth can affect your body and your overall health if you think you can toughen through the pain? A tooth infection can cause immense pain and discomfort, and it\’s essential to seek professional dental care as soon as possible. Dentists are highly trained experts who can diagnose and treat your tooth infection quickly and effectively. 

Call us today at 405-857-6453 if you think you may have a tooth infection. Don’t wait until it becomes unbearable. We do our best to see dental emergencies the same day or in a timely manner depending on the severity of your dental emergencies.

How do you know if you have a tooth infection?

You may have a tooth infection if you are experiencing severe, throbbing pain in the infected tooth, with the pain often radiating out into the jawbone, neck, and ears. Even when pain is not present, a patient may experience sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures with foods and liquids and sensitivity when chewing or biting. A severe infection may bring on fever and cause swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck or under the jaw. The patient’s face or cheek may swell on the side of the infection. Call a dentist immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.

Potential threat to overall health

If left untreated, these infections can have several consequences for your overall health. The infection could spread from the tooth to other parts of the body through the bloodstream. This can lead to a systemic infection known as bacteremia, where bacteria circulate in the blood. Bacteremia can potentially affect vital organs and contribute to more severe health problems.

Moreover, dental infections cause inflammation in the affected area. Chronic inflammation can have a negative impact on overall health, as it has been linked to various systemic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Your immune system responds to the infection by releasing inflammatory substances. If the infection persists or spreads, it can put a strain on your immune system, weakening its ability to fight off other infections or illnesses.

If the infection is left untreated, it could also spread to neighboring teeth, the jawbone, or even the sinuses. This can lead to more extensive dental problems, further complications, and additional health risks.

So let’s explore the steps Dr. Wheatley may take to address a tooth infection and restore your oral health.

To clear an infection, Dr. Wheatley may prescribe an oral antibiotic to address the bacteria and prevent it from spreading. For a simple abscess, a patient may undergo a root canal in an effort to both get rid of the infection and preserve the tooth. A more serious abscess may require the tooth to be drained before a root canal is performed. In extreme cases, a general dentist may recommend that the tooth be extracted.

Thorough Examination:

The first step is a comprehensive examination. The dentist will visually inspect the affected tooth and surrounding tissues, looking for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, and pus. They may also perform diagnostic tests such as X-rays to evaluate the extent of the infection and determine the appropriate course of action.

Prescription of Antibiotics:

If the tooth infection is severe and has spread beyond the tooth itself, the dentist may prescribe antibiotics. Antibiotics help eliminate the bacteria causing the infection and prevent its further spread. However, it\’s important to note that antibiotics alone may not completely resolve the issue, and further treatment may be necessary. You may feel better, but the problem will continue to cause trouble. 

Drain Tooth Abscess if necessary:

In case that a tooth abscess has formed, Dr. Wheatley may open up and drain the abscess. He will make a small cut into the abscess, allowing the pus to drain out, and then wash the area with saline. Occasionally, a small rubber drain is placed to keep the area open for drainage while the swelling decreases.

Root Canal Treatment:

When a tooth infection reaches the inner pulp of the tooth, a root canal treatment may be recommended. This procedure involves removing the infected pulp, cleaning and disinfecting the root canal, and filling it with a special material. Root canal treatment aims to save the tooth from extraction while removing the source of infection. Once the root canal is complete, a crown or filling is typically placed to restore the tooth\’s strength and function.

Extraction of the Tooth:

In some cases, a severely infected tooth may not be salvageable, or the patient may delay seeking treatment until the infection has caused significant damage. In such instances, the dentist may need to extract the tooth. Tooth extraction is typically considered a last resort, as dentists strive to preserve natural teeth whenever possible. Following the extraction, the dentist will discuss options for replacing the missing tooth, such as dental implants, bridges, or dentures.

Follow-up Care and Prevention:

After addressing the tooth infection, we will provide instructions for post-treatment care and suggest preventive measures to avoid future infections. This may include maintaining good oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing regularly, scheduling routine dental check-ups, and addressing any underlying dental issues, such as cavities or gum disease, promptly.

What you can do to address your tooth infection at home?

Until you can see a dentist, there are a few things you can to to find some relief from the pain.

  1. Over-the-counter pain relief: In the meantime, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to alleviate any discomfort. Follow the instructions on the packaging and consult a pharmacist if needed.
  2. Maintain good oral hygiene: Continue to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily. This helps keep the area clean and prevents further infection.
  3. Warm saltwater rinses: Rinse your mouth with warm saltwater several times a day. Mix half a teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water and gently swish it around your mouth for about 30 seconds before spitting it out. This can help reduce inflammation and draw out some of the bacteria.
  4. Avoid irritating substances: Avoid consuming hot or cold foods and beverages, as they may worsen any sensitivity or pain you are experiencing. Additionally, avoid sugary foods and drinks, as they can contribute to bacterial growth.
  5. Do not apply aspirin: While some people suggest applying crushed aspirin to the tooth or gums, it can actually cause irritation or damage to the tissues. It\’s best to avoid this method.

Tooth infections are serious dental conditions that require immediate attention. By seeking timely dental care and following your dentist\’s advice, you can alleviate the pain, restore your oral health, and prevent future dental complications. Remember, regular dental check-ups are essential for early detection and timely treatment of any dental issues, ensuring a healthy and vibrant smile.

A note on our care philosophy

We understand that tooth infections can be excruciating and that you feel like your only path to relief is through a tooth extraction. However, Dr. Wheatley will always thoroughly examine you and make recommendations with the goal of saving your tooth. If a tooth does have to be extracted, we gladly take care of you. If your tooth can be saved, we will likely recommend that you explore that path. Because even though we have a variety of highly effective and attractive restorative methods available at our Norman dentist office including dental implants, bridges and dentures, no dental appliance will serve you as well as your natural teeth.