Most of us consider dental problems to be relatively minor, just inconveniences. We do not expect them to be life-threatening conditions. And the good news is that in most cases dental issues are not immediate “life and death” issues. But untreated dental infections can be one of these silent, but potentially fatal threats. Although they are relatively uncommon, serious bacterial infections resulting from dental diseases are still responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths each year.
Worse, some recent research indicates that these numbers are increasing dramatically. The question is, how do routine dental problems – and most infections spring from routing problems – turn into potentially fatal conditions – and what can you do to prevent yourself or your family from falling victim?
At EK Dental Surgery we want you to be aware of the threat of untreated infections, and the fact that we can help you defeat the infections themselves, and any negative health effects they might bring.
The danger of untreated infections
Any infection in your body is a threat. If infections are not treated, they can linger on for months or even years, eventually causing multiple types of damage. Untreated dental infections are typically abscesses. Abscesses come in two types – one forms under the top of the tooth (periapical) and the other forms in the supporting gum and bone beneath and around the tooth (periodontal).
Furthermore, abscesses come in two different forms: acute and chronic. Acute abscesses are characterized by sudden and sharp pain, which develops quickly. Chronic abscesses are characterized by low-level pain that may linger in the mouth for months. Although acute abscesses are usually more immediately painful, chronic abscesses represent the greater threat as they can cause long-term tooth, jawbone, and soft-tissue damage.
Unfortunately, because the pain is not as pronounced, sufferers of chronic abscessed teeth often put off treatment. Unfortunately this means that by the time you visit your dentist, substantial damage may have already been done and the infection may have advanced beyond your teeth. If this is the case, the affected tooth may need to be removed to treat the infection and the spread of the infection must be treated as well – some patients have even died as the result of untreated dental infections.
Symptoms of dental infection (abscess)
Signs and symptoms of a tooth abscess include:
- Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache that can spread to the jawbone, neck or ear
- Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures (heat sensitivity is more problematic)
- Sensitivity to the pressure of chewing or biting
- Facial swelling
- Tender, swollen lymph nodes under your jaw or in your neck
- Sudden rush of foul-smelling and foul-tasting, salty fluid in your mouth and pain relief if the abscess ruptures
Preventing dental abscesses at home
Preventing dental abscesses is often just a matter of practicing good oral hygiene habits, including brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and rinsing with an antibacterial mouthwash. Other precautions include:
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months, or when the bristles become frayed
- Eliminate sugary snacks and eat only healthy foods
- Consider an antiseptic or a fluoride mouth rinse to give your teeth additional protection against tooth decay
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and cleanings. While the average dental checkup (which includes x-rays, exam and cleaning) is inexpensive and often covered by insurance or some other kind of protection, the cost of a tooth extraction is higher, and the cost of a root canal higher still. Worse, if a root canal is needed, tooth replacements are also recommended (and expensive)
Treatments for a dental abscess
Dental abscesses are treated by removing the source of the infection and draining away the pus.
Depending on the location of the abscess and how severe the infection is, possible treatments include:
- removing the affected tooth (extraction) – this may be necessary if root canal treatment isn’t possible
- root canal treatment – a procedure to remove the abscess from the root of an affected tooth before filling and sealing it
- incision and drainage – where a small cut (incision) is made in the gum to drain the abscess (this is usually only a temporary solution and further treatment may be needed)
Local anaesthetic is normally used to numb your mouth for these procedures. More extensive operations may be carried out under general anaesthetic (where you’re unconscious).
Antibiotics aren’t always prescribed, but may be used if the infection spreads or is particularly severe.
Reasons to Smile at EK Dental!
EK Dental Surgery offers a wide range of preventative and cosmetic dental procedures for children, seniors, and everyone in between! Our commitment is to our entire community. And if you have Medibank or HCF insurance, we offer Pay No Gap exam, scale and clean, and fluoride treatment! At EK Dental we can help you achieve maximal dental health and a movie-star smile!
EK Dental Surgery is conveniently located on Springvale Road in Glen Waverley.
Call (03) 9887 8787 or visit us at 230 Springvale Road in Glen Waverley.