A simple toothache is one thing, but if you have a tooth that’s throbbing with pain constantly, you need to take action quickly. When you have an infection in one of your teeth that spreads into the root, that’s called an abscess.
Abscesses generally begin in the soft inner chamber, called the pulp of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels are, which is why they are so painful.
Abscesses are bad news. Not only do tooth infections cause severe pain but can also lead to a great deal of fatigue.
What is a Dental Abscess?
When a tooth abscess forms, the tooth itself has become incapable of fighting off infection, allowing bacteria to enter the pulp of the tooth and begin to grow. As the bacteria grow and multiply, the infection spreads out of the inner chamber of the tooth and works its way through the root all the way into your jawbone.
You could also develop an abscess on your gum. While a tooth abscess originates from inside the tooth, a gum abscess forms in the gum pocket on the outside of the tooth. Gum abscesses are usually caused by gum disease. Either way, the abscess itself is a buildup of puss that contains bacteria, dead white blood cells, and tissue debris.
What Causes a Dental Abscess?
Dental abscesses are usually caused by a lack of proper oral hygiene or dental care. However, diets high in sugar, grinding or clenching the teeth, other trauma to the tooth, or even previous dental work can increase the risk of developing a dental abscess.
Many dental abscesses begin as a cavity that goes untreated, eventually becoming so deep that it reaches the pulp of the tooth. This causes pain and inflammation. In some cases, the damage can be reversed with proper treatment. Unfortunately, sometimes the tooth begins to die, and the damage is irreversible. Once the pulp dies, the tooth becomes necrotic and an abscess forms.
Symptoms of a Tooth Infection
Generally, the pain of a tooth infection will send you to the dentist pretty quick, but not always. There are some other signs of a dental abscess you may notice, as well.
- Sometimes, the tooth will become dark because the necrotic pulp from inside the tooth has leaked out into the porous layer of the tooth. You may not have any pain at all in this case.
- You may only notice pain when you eat or if you press down on the tooth, but it may not bother you at other times. This happens when the infection has spread into the bum and bone. In these cases, the pain will eventually increase to the point where the throbbing and pulsing are so severe, they can’t be relieved with medication.
- You may notice a small bump on the gum, near the base of the infected tooth, that looks like a puss-filled pimple. This is usually accompanied by a foul odor or taste in the mouth.
- Swollen lymph nodes or swelling of the face and jaw signal a tooth infection. The swelling may cause pain in your jaw, as well. Sometimes, you will develop a fever as well.
You should also be aware that a tooth infection can sometimes have no visible or physical symptoms. This happens when the nerve has become so damaged, it no longer responds to stimuli, so it doesn’t cause pain. In this case, the dental infection may not be detected until you have a dental x-ray.
Why Dental Infections Cause Fatigue
Dental infections that are left untreated can lead to chronic fatigue that’s way beyond the norm. If you’re so tired that it doesn’t get better with a good night’s sleep, a dental infection could be the cause. Extreme fatigue is a common symptom of all types of infections.
The reason you feel so tired is that the infection is causing inflammation. When there’s inflammation present, the body’s immune system kicks into overdrive, sending white blood cells to fight the infection. When your body is working so hard, fatigue is the natural result, and it probably won’t get better until the infection is resolved.
What to do if You Suspect You Have a Tooth Infection
If you suspect you have a tooth infection, you should see a dentist right away for treatment. Dental infections don’t usually go away on their own, and they can spread to other parts of the body. Left untreated, they can lead to life-threatening infections in the heart or brain. If you have a fever accompanied by swelling of the face or jaw, the situation could be dire, and you should go to the emergency room if you can’t see your dentist right away.
How Dental Infections are Treated
In most cases, your dentist will prescribe an oral antibiotic to resolve the infection. In some cases, he will also need to open up the tooth and drain the puss away from the infected area. Once the infection has been cleared, the dentist will take steps to restore the tooth, if possible.
In many cases, a root canal will be performed. This involves cleaning out the pulp of the tooth and sealing the space with a unique material. The process is meant to protect the tooth from becoming infected again in the future.
Unfortunately, the infection sometimes becomes too invasive. If the infection has spread to the jawbone or structure of the tooth, it may not be salvageable. In this case, the tooth will be extracted to prevent a recurrence of the infection.
In most cases, when the infection is in a child’s tooth, extraction is the only possible course of action. It’s important that the infection is cleared up completely to avoid risking damage to the adult tooth that is forming underneath.
Some home remedies, such as rinsing the mouth with warm saltwater or placing a warm teabag over the area, may provide temporary pain relief. However, these remedies will not resolve the infection, and medical treatment is still necessary.
Nobody likes going to the dentist, but dental infections can become very serious, very quickly. If you notice extreme fatigue accompanied by other symptoms of a dental infection, see your dentist right away. You could be fighting a tooth infection that you didn’t even know existed.