Tooth infection can be one of the most preventable infections, but if left untreated can also lead to other complications with other organs in your body. In this blog post we investigate a series of questions about the problems people experience with tooth infections, how to avoid them and what you can do to treat them if necessary.
Can tooth infections lead to other diseases?
Yes, indeed they can. The bacteria around tooth infection, particularly periodontal disease has been shown to be present in people with heart disease also. The exact link between the 2 is not precisely known yet and it is not definitively a causal link. It is however believed that the periodontal bacteria is a gateway bacteria, which when present can cause other problems around the body including:
- Stroke. Studies have shown that fatty deposits lodged in the carotid arteries of stroke sufferers are caused by bacteria and that 40% of this bacteria comes from the mouth if there is an oral infection
- Breathing problems. Dental plaque contains a high number of respiratory pathogen which if breathed in can leave patients susceptible to respiratory disease.
- Heart disease. The bacteria in the mouth with tooth infections can get mixed into the platelets in your blood causing clumps of cells and bacteria to lodge inside the blood vessels of your heart.
- Diabetes. Whilst tooth infections don’t necessarily cause diabetes, they can exacerbate existing diabetic problems. A study of 48,000 men found that men who had periodontal disease had a 63% higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer than men with healthy gums.
- Stomach ulcers. The bacteria that collect in your mouth when you have a tooth infection or gum infection is the same bacteria which cause gastric ulcers.
- Premature birth. Studies have shown that women with gum disease are 7 or 8 times more likely to give birth prematurely than women with healthy gums, researchers believe this is due to inflammatory chemicals which are released in the tooth infection making their way around the body and causing preterm birth.
How to get rid of a gum infection?
The first thing to say about gum infections is that prevention is always better than cure. Tooth decay and dental abscesses can usually be prevented with long-term good quality oral health routines. Cleaning your teeth 2 minutes, twice a day with a good quality fluoride-containing toothpaste and then cleaning in between your teeth once-a-day with floss or brush can really help keep disease at bay.
For proper medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, you will need to see your dental hygienist, they can then advise on how to look after your teeth and gums keeping anti-bacterial infection risks low. They will also be able to let you know how you could modify your current oral health routine to ensure gum disease doesn’t come back.
You may find that if you have a deep pocket of pus, a periapical abscess or periodontal abscess then you may need a referral to a periodontist. A periodontist is then able to carry out further surgical treatments to get rid of the gum infection.
What are the health risks of an untreated tooth infection?
The biggest risk is if the infection has spread. If a tooth infection is left untreated or the abscess ruptures then it could possibly lead to life-threatening septicaemia where a visit to the accident and emergency room is required.
As the infection takes hold you may also notice a foul taste in your mouth and people may also let you know that you have bad breath (halitosis), this can make a tooth infection extremely unpleasant… And when added to the pain and further complications means that you really should have any infection treated by your dentist as soon as possible.
How long do tooth infections last?
A tooth infection is not like a regular infection in other areas of your body. Generally speaking, a tooth infection will be caused by dental decay, this is where the bacteria in your mouth excrete acid each time you eat food. This acid then attacks the teeth and the teeth begin to rot. This then leads to tooth infection.
Unfortunately, your body is not able to heal the damaged tooth itself and therefore the infection will continue indefinitely until treated by a dentist. Your dentist will remove rotting tooth structure and replace with some form of filling material, sometimes they will use an amalgam filling and sometimes white filling, this can be made either of composite or ceramic.
Does salt water help an infection?
Rinsing your mouth with warm salt water a few times a day can help to relieve the toothache, particularly if it was caused by an infection. The saltwater acts as a mild antibacterial agent and can help to prevent the infection from spreading too fast. A salt water mouth rinse, however, will not stop the infection completely and you will still need to have treatment by a dentist to remove the cause of the initial infection.