It is normal to have bacteria living on various parts of the teeth and mouth, but tooth infections can happen when bacteria penetrates the outer surfaces of the teeth-that contain enamel or damaged dentin. The infection typically settles in deep pockets as it cannot be reached through brushing alone.
Poor dental hygiene, tooth injury, and dental procedures cause cavities and fractures that trap bacteria and allow plaque to build up. A dentist may fill or crown a cavity immediately to stop the erosion of teeth. If left untreated and the infection reaches the pulp, a condition known as pulpitis may result, causing you to experience a toothache or sensitivity that is aggravated by hot and cold liquids and foods. If the infection continues to spread through the tooth, it may form a pocket of pus known as an abscess.
Treatment options for tooth infections
If you have pulpitis, your dentist may advise root canal therapy to remove the infection and preserve your natural tooth. After the tooth has been treated, it will need to be headed or capped in order to restore its strength and stability.
Once an abscess from tooth decay forms, the pus needs to be drawn out of it. If you can’t save the tooth with root canal therapy and if there is pain or continued infection, often the tooth has to be extracted. Pus removal can occur before or after the extraction. If your dentist finds that extracting the tooth before treatment may allow the infection to spread and cause other complications, such as compromising the healing process after tooth extraction, then your dentist may recommend treating the infection before tooth removal to reduce these risks.
Generally, you will need to take pain medication and some antibiotics for a few days before your surgical tooth removal to remove bacteria in the area, as well as after tooth extraction to prevent infection when healing.
If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to see your dentist as soon as possible to save the tooth or schedule an extraction.