It starts with a toothache. If your sore and throbbing tooth is left untreated, it could become infected. If your tooth becomes infected and isn’t treated, the infection could spread to other places in your body.

Symptoms of an infected tooth can include:

If an infected tooth is not treated, the infection could spread elsewhere in your body, which is potentially life-threatening. Signs and symptoms that the infection in the tooth has spread include:

You feel unwell

You run a fever

Your face swells

  • swelling that makes it difficult to fully open your mouth
  • swelling that impedes swallowing
  • swelling that impedes breathing

You become dehydrated

Your heart rate increases

Your breathing rate increases

  • over 25 breaths per minute

You experience stomach pain

You should call your doctor if you, your child, or your infant has a high fever. A high fever is defined as:

  • adults: 103°F or higher
  • children: 102.2°F or higher
  • infants 3 months and older: 102°F or higher
  • infants younger than 3 months: 100.4°F or higher

Get immediate medical attention if the fever is accompanied by:

A tooth becomes infected when bacteria gets into the tooth through a chip, crack, or cavity. Your risk factor for a tooth infection increases if you have:

  • poor dental hygiene, including not brushing your teeth 2 times a day and not flossing
  • a high sugar diet, including eating sweets and drinking soda
  • dry mouth, which is often caused by aging or as a side effect of certain medications

Not all toothaches become serious health concerns. But if you’re experiencing a toothache, it’s best to get treatment before it gets worse.

Call your dentist for a same-day appointment if your toothache lasts longer than a day or is accompanied by other symptoms such as:

If you have a broken tooth or if a tooth comes out, see your dentist right away.

While you’re waiting to see the dentist, you might find relief by:

  • taking ibuprofen
  • avoiding hot or cold drinks and food
  • avoiding chewing on the side of the tooth ache
  • eating only cool, soft foods

You’re at risk of tooth infection if you don’t have good dental hygiene. Take good care of your teeth by:

If untreated, a tooth infection could potentially travel to other areas of your body, resulting in a potentially life-threatening infection. Signs of a tooth infection spreading to the body may include:

  • fever
  • swelling
  • dehydration
  • increased heart rate
  • increased breathing rate
  • stomach pain

Call your dentist for a same-day appointment if you or your child experience any of these symptoms in addition to a toothache.