All you need to know about Dental Infections

All you need to know about dental infections

Dental infections can be a serious problem and therefore shouldn’t be taken lightly. They can even become life-threatening if left untreated. In this post, we provide you the information you need to recognise and respond to a dental infection.

What is a dental infection?

A dental infection is the presence of bacteria under or inside a tooth. They are often called an ‘abscess’, which is technically a collection of pus. Dental abscesses fall into two types: periapical (an infection under the tooth) and periodontal (an infection in the gum or bone). The most common type is periapical, which is caused by an infection at the tip of the root of the tooth. Periodontal abscesses on the other hand tend to occur due to food that is stuck between the tooth and gum.

Abscesses can also be divided into acute and chronic. As its name suggests, an acute abscess occurs quickly. Usually it causes pain that is sharp and intense. Chronic abscesses on other hand last a lot longer – often for months. The pain is usually weaker however.

The danger of untreated dental infections

Sometimes patients with a chronic abscess put off going to the dentist because their pain is only low-grade. This is a bad idea however because over time the infection can cause damage and can spread beyond the tooth. When the patient does eventually seek dental care, the dentist may have to extract the tooth.

If the abscess is left untreated for a long time, then the infection can spread and cause other problems. These include infection of the nearby bone, inflammation of the sinuses, a cyst next to the tooth, and infection of the blood. The worst-case scenario is sepsis, which is an immune response that can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of a dental infection

As mentioned above, acute abscesses tend to cause abrupt and intense pain, whereas chronic abscesses usually cause low-grade pain that doesn’t go away. Other symptoms of abscesses include toothache, fever, tooth sensitivity, and swelling. The affected tooth is often unbearable to touch due to pain.


A chronic dental infection won’t go away on its own; only a dentist can remove it. For a periodontal abscess, the dentist will thoroughly clean the area, drain the trapped pus, and treat the infection. For a periapical abscess, the dentist will perform a root canal to drain the abscess and then repair the tooth with a filling or a crown. The dentist may have to remove the tooth entirely if the tooth is severely damaged.

How to avoid dental infections

Brushing twice a day and flossing once a day will help you to avoid abscesses. Also, frequent dentist check-ups can catch signs of dental infections before any damage is done. If you already have symptoms of a dental infection, such as chronic pain in your mouth, then see a dentist as soon as possible.

If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort, contact the Willows team on 01432 274749 as soon as possible or email

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