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Have you ever asked yourself "How do I know if my tooth is infected?" It can often be easier to find out than you think.

If you have a toothache and it gets worse when you bite down, there is a good chance your tooth is infected or you have an abscess. If you have swelling in the area (including the gums, cheek, or jaw) there is a good chance your tooth is infected or you have an abscess. If you see a small bump on the gums near the bottom of the tooth, your tooth is probably infected or you have an abscess. The following list of other symptoms comes from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002055/ and may be an indication that your tooth is infected:
  • Bitter taste in the mouth
  • Breath odor
  • General discomfort, uneasiness, or ill feeling
  • Fever
  • Pain when chewing
  • Sensitivity of the teeth to hot or cold
  • Swelling of the gum over the infected tooth, that may look like a pimple
  • Swollen glands of the neck
  • Swollen area of the upper or lower jaw -- a very serious symptom

"What Do I Do If My Tooth is Infected?"

tooth infected 300x225 How Do You Know if Your Tooth is Infected? If you look in the mirror and can see swelling or if your toothache gets worse when you bite down, your tooth is infected or you may have an abscess. So what can you do about it? The first thing to do if your tooth is infected is call your dentist. Why? Infections (and tooth abscesses) aren't something you want to deal with on your own. Infections can spread to other areas of the body, causing all kinds of other problems (keep reading for an example), including the soft tissue in your brain. Your dentist can quickly X-Ray and examine the area to determine the best course of action and the best way to remove the infection to prevent further risk. An infection is NOT something you want to try to cure at home, on your own.

"Why Is My Tooth Infected?"

Tooth infections can be cause by a number of things. One of the most common we see in our office is older root canals. When a root canal is done the nerve is removed. Bacteria can grow in the area and lead to an infection that your body has a hard time fighting off. If you have any of the symptoms listed above on a tooth that once had a root canal, the odds that you have an infection are a little bit greater. Infections can also be caused from deep decay (a bad cavity), cracked tooth, broken tooth, dead tooth, and a number of other things.

"How Do I Cure a Tooth Infection?"

If your tooth is infected or abscessed there may be a few options available to you. One option is to save the tooth by performing a root canal (even if the infected tooth had a root canal before, you may be able to re-treat the tooth and remove the infection). If you don't mind removing the tooth, surgical extraction may be the best option for removing the infection or abscess and prevent a recurrence. If the tooth is otherwise healthy, you may be able to just get a prescription for antibiotics to help get rid of the infection and let your body heal on it's own after that.

Toothache Tales: When Dental Infections Spread

We recently had a patient call who had all of the symptoms mentioned above (tooth previously had a root canal, she had swelling in her cheek that was moving into her eye, it hurt more when she bit down, and there was a bump on the gums). She was in a panic because her tooth was infected, the infection was spreading, and she had prior experience with infections. A few years prior she had TWO friends who had tooth infections (not at the same time). They didn't have the money to get the infection taken care of and/or just really did not want to see the dentist, so they waited. As they waited, the infections got worse and started to spread, unbeknownst to them. Infections don't always hurt. Think of an infection in your finger. While it may have hurt when you cut your finger, the infection may not hurt at all. There are symptoms, but the tissue around the infection is dying, so they don't have the nerve endings that can cause pain. That's why some infections go completely undetected in the mouth: if you can't see it and can't feel it, how do you know it's there? These friends of our patient knew they had small dental infections. They didn't know that the infections had spread to the soft tissue in their brain until it was too late. Our patient lost TWO of her friends as a direct result of dental infections.

If Your Tooth is Infected or Abscessed:

If you think your tooth is infected or you might have an abscess, please see a dentist. If you don't have a dentist and you are in the San Diego area, On Demand Dentist can help. Infections are serious. Don't think they will just go away. If you are worried about cost, at On Demand Dentist (and most dental offices) we have convenient payment plans including Care Credit with no interest payments spread out over time. Most of our patients don't pay more than $400 including exam, x-rays, AND a surgical extraction. $400 is well worth protecting your health! If you have a tooth abscess or infection, call the emergency dentist in San Diego, On Demand Dentist: 619-342-3577.

Check out the video below for more information about dental infections and what to do if your tooth is infected.

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