Choosing to suffer through the pain of an infected tooth without seeking treatment from a dental professional may jeopardize more than just your comfort. Medical studies are increasingly finding a correlation between dental and body health, and are finding that lingering tooth infections could be leading to serious health issues, including illness and disease.
How tooth infections occur
Before we go into how a tooth infection can cause other health issues, it’s important first to understand how a tooth infection occurs and how to know if you may have one. The mouth is a gateway to the rest of the body and is often exposed to various types of bacteria. Normal dental care, such as regular brushing and flossing, along with the natural defensive system of our saliva is usually enough to keep our mouths clean, fresh, and healthy. However, if bacteria are allowed to build up, it can cause an infection.
Our body responds to the bacterial infection by sending immune cells to the area to attack the bacteria, typically causing inflammation, which is what causes you to experience swelling, pain, and other discomforts. However, it is possible to have an infection without experiencing any symptoms, making it even more important to have routine dental exams to detect problem areas before they lead to other health issues.
Increased Risk for Heart Disease, Heart Attack, and Stroke
Chronic inflammation is the most common cause of cardiovascular issues. Inflammation is your body’s natural reaction to infections, but when there is an excessive amount, it can create blood clots and overwhelm blood vessels leading to your heart, causing them to burst. The same happens with severe inflammation in an affected tooth.
The risk of heart problems increases when an infection is symptomless or the patient ignores the indicators and fails to receive prompt treatment. Having an untreated tooth infection can actually increase your risk for heart disease by nearly three times. The same way the inflammation can cause issues with the blood vessels leading to your heart, it can also cause issues with the blood pathways to your brain, leading to a stroke. Either way, it’s important to receive prompt medical and dental care if you’re experiencing an infection.
Sepsis and Septic Shock
What may start as a small infection somewhere in your tooth can eventually spread its way through your body and cause sepsis or septic shock. When sepsis occurs, it can create blood clots or damage to blood vessels, compromising your organs. If it progresses into septic shock, your blood pressure will rapidly drop, and your body begins to shut down.
Early indicators that your tooth infection may be leading to septic shock include a decrease in tooth pain (as the infection typically bursts or spreads), headaches, nausea, fever, pain or swelling in the jaw or neck, and increased heart and breathing rate.
The best way to prevent severe injuries, illnesses, or death that can result from sepsis is to promptly address any type of infection in the body, including infections in the teeth and mouth.
Treating a tooth infection
If you have a tooth infection, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, drain the infection from your tooth, perform a root canal, or pull the tooth. You can discuss treatment options with your dentist to determine which route is best for you and your overall health. If you live in Bucks County, Newtown, or Feasterville, Pennsylvania and believe extracting the tooth may be your best option, schedule an appointment with our dental team today.