Dental

Infection

A toothache can make it hard to eat, concentrate, or get a good night’s sleep, and dentists aren’t always immediately available. If you have a dental infection or if a tooth is causing you pain, you need fast relief. Medications like oral antibiotics may help relieve your symptoms until you’re able to see a dentist. Our online doctors can uncover the cause of your tooth pain so you can get the right treatment for your symptoms. Get same-day relief for a new tooth infection or refill prescription medication for an existing one.

A tooth infection is another name for a pocket of pus called an abscess. An abscess forms when bacteria accumulate in a tooth or in gum tissue. There are several possible causes of a tooth infection, from an infection, poor oral hygiene, or even gum disease. When a tooth is damaged or it begins to decay, cavities allow bacteria to move deeper into the tooth, causing a periapical abscess. If left untreated, a tooth abscess can lead to other problems like tooth loss and health complications outside the mouth.

It’s important to get treatment for a painful tooth or tooth abscess as soon as possible. Medications may help temporarily relieve the symptoms of a toothache caused by an infection, but it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible.

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Persistent tooth pain

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Tooth sensitivity 

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Bad breath

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Bitter taste in the mouth

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Swollen gums

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Facial swelling

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Swollen lymph nodes

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Fever

We are general practitioners (family medicine), and do not specialize in Dentistry or Orthodontistry. We do not treat patients experiencing severe pain, fever, copious pus, facial or jaw swelling. 

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Poor Oral Hygiene: Inadequate brushing, flossing, and oral care can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar, creating an environment for bacteria to thrive.

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Gum Disease: Gingivitis and periodontitis are gum diseases caused by bacterial infections. They develop when plaque and tartar buildup irritate the gums, leading to inflammation and infection.

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Tooth Decay: Cavities (dental caries) are caused by bacteria breaking down tooth enamel. If left untreated, they can progress to infect the inner pulp of the tooth.

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Cracked or Chipped Teeth: Damage to teeth can create openings for bacteria to enter and cause infection.

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Compromised Immune System: Conditions like diabetes or immune disorders can weaken the body's ability to fight infections, making oral infections more likely.

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Dry Mouth: Reduced saliva flow can allow bacteria to proliferate, increasing the risk of infection.

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Dental Procedures: Infections can develop after dental procedures if proper sterilization and post-operative care aren't followed.

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Untreated Infections: If a dental infection is not treated promptly, it can spread to nearby tissues, causing more widespread dental and oral infections.

A medical provider typically diagnoses a dental infection through a combination of patient history, physical examination, and possibly imaging. The patient's description of symptoms, such as pain, swelling, or sensitivity in the mouth or around the jaw, provides important information. If necessary, the provider will then perform a physical examination, checking for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus around the affected tooth or gum area. If further investigation is required, dental X-rays may be ordered to visualize the extent of the infection and any potential damage to teeth or surrounding structures. 

When attempting to self-diagnose a potential dental infection, individuals should be alert to certain signs and symptoms. Persistent, throbbing toothache or pain around a specific tooth or area of the mouth could indicate an infection. Swelling of the gums, face, or jaw, along with redness and tenderness, is also concerning. Increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, as well as pain while chewing or biting, might suggest an issue. Bad breath, an unpleasant taste in the mouth, or the presence of pus around a tooth or gum area are potential indicators. It's important to note that self-diagnosis is not a substitute for professional dental care. If any of these symptoms are present, seeking prompt evaluation and treatment from a qualified medical professional is essential to accurately diagnose and address the issue.

Antibiotics may be prescribed in conjunction with other treatments to control the spread of infection and manage inflammation. Pain relief medications can also be provided to alleviate discomfort. 

For gum infections like gingivitis or periodontitis, non-surgical treatments may be employed. These could include scaling and root planing, where plaque and tartar are carefully removed from the tooth surfaces and the roots, allowing the gums to heal. Improved oral hygiene practices and regular dental cleanings are often recommended to prevent recurrence.

In the case of a tooth infection that has reached the pulp of the tooth, a root canal procedure is a common treatment. During a root canal, the infected pulp is removed, the interior of the tooth is disinfected, and then the space is sealed to prevent reinfection. This procedure helps save the tooth while eliminating the infection and alleviating pain.

In more severe situations, if the tooth cannot be saved through root canal therapy or if the infection has caused extensive damage, tooth extraction might be necessary. After extraction, the dentist will provide guidance on post-operative care and potential replacement options, such as dental implants or bridges.

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Amoxicillin

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Augmentin

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Clindamycin

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Metronidazole

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Chlorhexidine gluconate

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Pain reliever

Home remedies can offer temporary relief for dental infection symptoms, but they should not replace professional dental care. It's crucial to consult a dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment. That said, here are some home remedies that might help manage symptoms until you can see a dentist:

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Saltwater Rinse: Gargling with warm saltwater can help reduce pain and inflammation by promoting healing and disinfection.

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Cold Compress: Applying a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the outside of the affected area can help alleviate swelling and pain.

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Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can provide temporary relief from pain and discomfort. Follow the recommended dosage.

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Clove Oil: Applying a small amount of clove oil to the affected area with a cotton ball might offer temporary pain relief due to its numbing properties.

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Peppermint Tea Bags: Placing a cooled, damp peppermint tea bag on the affected area may provide some soothing relief.

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Hydrogen Peroxide Rinse: Diluted hydrogen peroxide (3%) can be used as a mouthwash to help disinfect the mouth, but it should not be swallowed.

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Garlic: Some people believe that garlic's natural antimicrobial properties could help manage infection. Chewing a piece of garlic or placing it near the affected tooth (being cautious not to irritate the gums) is an option, but it might be strong and cause discomfort.

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Turmeric Paste: Mixing turmeric powder with water to create a paste and applying it to the affected area could provide anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial benefits.

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Complete the Antibiotic Course: If antibiotics are prescribed, it's crucial to take the full course as directed by your healthcare provider. Even if you start feeling better, stopping antibiotics prematurely can allow bacteria to survive and potentially develop antibiotic resistance.

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Practice Excellent Oral Hygiene: Maintaining proper oral hygiene is essential. Brush your teeth gently twice a day using fluoride toothpaste, and floss daily to clean between teeth and along the gumline. This helps prevent further bacterial growth and supports the healing process.

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Rinse with Warm Saltwater: Gargling with warm saltwater can help reduce inflammation, alleviate discomfort, and keep the oral area clean. Mix about half a teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and swish it around your mouth before spitting it out.

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Use Antiseptic Mouthwash: Your dentist might recommend an antimicrobial or antiseptic mouthwash to help control bacteria in the mouth. Follow your dentist's instructions on how often to use it.

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Avoid Irritating Foods and Drinks: Spicy, hot, or very cold foods and drinks can exacerbate dental discomfort. Stick to a soft and bland diet while your infection heals.

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Stay Hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps maintain oral health and supports overall healing.

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Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Always follow the dosage instructions and consult your healthcare provider if you have any medical conditions or are taking other medications.

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Rest and Self-Care: Adequate rest and general self-care can promote healing and boost your immune system's ability to fight the infection.

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Avoid Smoking and Alcohol: Smoking and alcohol consumption can delay the healing process and compromise your immune system's response.

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Maintain Regular Dental Check-Ups: After the infection is fully treated, continue with routine dental check-ups and cleanings to prevent future issues and catch potential problems early.

Preventing dental infections requires a combination of consistent oral hygiene practices, healthy habits, and regular dental care. One of the foundational steps is maintaining excellent oral hygiene. Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle toothbrush. Make sure to clean along the gumline and the surfaces of all teeth. Incorporate daily flossing to remove plaque and food particles from between teeth where a toothbrush can't reach.

A balanced diet plays a significant role in oral health. Limit sugary snacks and beverages, as they promote bacterial growth and tooth decay. Instead, opt for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy products. Drinking water throughout the day helps rinse away food particles and bacteria, contributing to a healthier mouth.

Regular dental check-ups are vital for prevention. Schedule dental appointments every six months for professional cleanings and thorough examinations. These visits allow your dentist to detect early signs of issues and provide timely interventions before they escalate into infections. Additionally, your dentist might recommend treatments such as dental sealants, fluoride applications, and gum disease management to strengthen teeth and gums.

Avoiding tobacco products and minimizing alcohol consumption can significantly improve oral health. Smoking and chewing tobacco increase the risk of gum disease, tooth decay, and other dental issues. Reducing alcohol intake can help maintain a healthy oral environment.

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Dental Infection Overview