Understanding Tooth Infections and Abscesses

Oral care is incredibly important. Not only does it keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy, but it can impact your overall health. While many oral problems can arise, one of the most bothersome is a tooth infection or abscess. If you would like to know more about this painful condition, keep reading.

What Is a Tooth Infection? 

When you consume foods and beverages, some sugars are left behind. Naturally, if your diet consists of foods/beverages with lots of sugar or carbohydrates, you'll have more sugar left behind. This sugar is a delicious meal for bacteria in your mouth. A combination of sugary foods and poor oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) creates a double punch, allowing the bacteria to easily break past your enamel.

This is how cavities form. However, in severe cases, the cavity can reach the tooth's pulp. This is the part of the tooth that is "live." It contains all the blood vessels and nerves. As a result, when this area gets infected with the oral bacteria, it can lead to necrosis of the tooth's roots and pulp, and infection is formed.

What Are the Risk Factors of a Tooth Infection?

Naturally, eating an unhealthy diet is a major risk factor for a tooth infection, but there are other risk factors to consider. One leading risk factor is dry mouth. This is a common side effect of many types of medication.

Dry mouth limits the amount of saliva in your mouth, and saliva helps naturally remove some of the sugar left behind after eating. Unless you can switch to a new medication, you may need special rinses to help promote saliva flow.

You may also be at a higher risk of developing an infection if you have pika or chew on hard foods like ice. The stress of the hard objects against the teeth can cause them to crack or chip, which allows bacteria to enter.

Similarly, if you play high-impact sports, you may be at a higher risk of an injury that could allow bacteria to enter the tooth's pulp. People who grind their teeth are also at a higher risk because of the massive pressure against the teeth.

How Is a Tooth Infection Treated?

Tooth infections are treated in one of two ways. Ideally, you'll get root canal therapy. During this procedure, an endodontist cleans out the entire tooth's pulp, including the roots. If all goes well, this saves the tooth. Even though the tooth is considered dead, you can continue to use it like a normal tooth, and it won't turn black or fall out.

The problem with root canal therapy is the cost. The procedure itself is expensive, and you will likely need a crown after the root canal treatment to strengthen the tooth. Insurance may pay a small amount, but the brunt of the cost comes out of your pocket.

The cheaper alternative is to have the tooth extracted. However, this means you'll be left with a missing tooth, which could affect speaking, eating, and your confidence. Of course, you can always have the tooth replaced in the future.

If you have a tooth infection, you may be experiencing severe pain. If there is an abscess, there may even be visible pus, and you'll have bad breath. If you would like to know more, or if you want to start treatment for your infection, contact an emergency dental care center today.