It might seem surprising, but something as innocent as an ordinary toothache could turn into something much worse if it’s not treated promptly, even leaving you fighting for your life in the hospital. This is because tooth infections, which might not show severe symptoms at first, can eventually spread to the rest of the body and potentially be fatal. So how does this work, and how long until a tooth infection kills you?

Read on to learn more about how tooth infections work, how they spread, and why you should seek prompt treatment for one.

How A Tooth Infection Progresses

Bacteria that reside inside your mouth can cause tooth infections. These bacteria are normally present in a healthy mouth, but a good oral hygiene routine controls their population. Brushing and flossing regularly disrupt the buildup of plaque, bacteria, and waste products, preventing them from causing any harm.

However, neglecting your oral hygiene allows plaque and bacteria to build up. The bacteria thrive on the food particles in the plaque, multiplying and producing acids that can “eat” through tooth enamel – the strong, outermost layer of a tooth that protects the sensitive nerves and blood vessels inside. Even more alarming is that if you have existing cavities or a cracked, chipped, or split tooth, the bacteria have a direct path of entry directly into the tooth.

What Happens When Bacteria Get Inside A Tooth?

Once the outer layer of enamel is compromised, the layers underneath are much more vulnerable. The bacteria penetrate the deepest layer of pulp, which is sensitive and rich with nerve endings and blood vessels. The nerve endings send pain signals out to the brain, and you feel a toothache.

The pain can be so severe at times that it can keep you up all night. It can prevent you from eating, drinking, and even talking. It can also spread to other parts of your face and neck, including the jaw and ear. Other symptoms you might notice are:

  • Swelling and redness in the affected area
  • A bad taste in your mouth, or bad breath
  • Extreme sensitivity in your tooth
  • A tooth that seems “loose.”
  • Fever, sweating, and chills.

While the symptoms are concerning enough on their own and should lead you immediately towards an emergency dentist, it’s important to understand exactly how a tooth infection can impact you.

Can A Tooth Infection Kill You?

Definitely. In fact, it is not rare for individuals to die of infection.

Once an infection has taken root inside a tooth, it has direct access to the rest of the bloodstream. In some cases, bacteria can travel to other parts of the face, jaw, neck, and even vital organs. This can cause severe damage and sepsis and can result in death. How long until a tooth infection kills you depends entirely on the speed with which the infection spreads. If you’ve had a toothache for a while, have it looked at promptly.

Dental infections and subsequent hospitalizations and emergency room visits are among the most highly preventable, treatable conditions. Besides, the cost of a tooth extraction, root canal, or fillings is much lower than an emergency room visit to treat sepsis. And better yet, the cost of maintaining good oral health and eliminating chances of infection is only a few minutes of your time per day.


If you experience any symptoms of a toothache or tooth infection, the best thing to do is visit a qualified, professional dentist who can catch and treat infections early. And, of course, you can prevent yourself from going through the experience by brushing and flossing thoroughly for two minutes a day, avoiding sugary foods, and maintaining good oral hygiene overall.

This post is brought to you by Dr. Vesna Arezina, DDS, your best family dentist in Houston, TX. With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Arezina prides herself on providing exceptional service, performing general, cosmetic, and restorative dentistry procedures. The clinic also provides emergency dental care and is bilingual to serve all members of our community with comfort and care. For any questions or to schedule an appointment, please call us at (281) 469-7469. We’ll be happy to see you!

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