Abscessed teeth are no joke. Sure, there may be memes and actual jokes about teeth falling out due to poor oral hygiene, but abscessed tooth dangers can go well beyond a gap in your smile. Here are some warning signs to look for, common abscessed tooth dangers, and when to get in touch with your dentist.

Do I have an abscessed tooth?

Abscessed teeth are teeth that are surrounded by a pocket of pus. The two main types of tooth abscesses are:

  1. Periapical abscesses: Located at the root of the tooth
  2. Periodontal abscesses: Affects the gums next to the tooth

If left untreated, an infection that begins in one area can spread to another. A periapical abscess can be joined eventually by a periodontal abscess, and vice versa.

Abscessed tooth stages are clear, and identifying which stage is occurring can help you decide on proper treatment. In the first stage, the affected tooth may turn darker than its neighbors. You may begin to feel pain when biting. In the final stages, you may see a pus-filled swollen area on the gum, and the pain, swelling, and throbbing may be constant.

Abscessed teeth have several potential causes, but most infections begin when bacteria enters the dental pulp – the soft material inside the tooth – through a crack or chip in the tooth itself. Other dental work or trauma to the mouth can also allow bacteria to enter the pulp.

Risk factors for abscessed teeth are the usual suspects.

A diet high in sugar and fat erodes tooth enamel and makes teeth more susceptible to decay. Poor dental hygiene also increases the risk of abscessed tooth. People who have extensive dental work (e.g., crowns, bridges, implants, etc.) also have an increased risk of abscessed teeth.

What are abscessed tooth symptoms?

There are several clear symptoms of tooth infection. In some cases, a small white spot just above the infected tooth will appear. This is a pocket of pus that has formed as a result of the bacterial infection.

Other abscessed tooth symptoms include:

  • Sensitivity to hot and cold
  • Pain when chewing and biting (and eventually all the time)
  • Fever
  • Swelling in the face
  • Throbbing and tenderness in any area of the face, and radiating pain
  • A sharp pain following by a rush of bad-tasting fluid and relief (a cycle which will continue as new fluid builds up)
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the jaw and neck

Some people may experience bleeding. You may experience one or more of these symptoms. Without treatment, most people will eventually have constant throbbing pain that radiates across their face and down their neck.

What are common abscessed tooth dangers?

Common abscessed tooth dangers go beyond pain and can be potentially serious. Left untreated, complications can quickly develop, threatening not only the tooth but also other systems in the body. Some of these abscessed tooth dangers include:

  • Ludwig’s angina
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Septicemia
  • Brain abscess
  • Meningitis

If you think you have an abscessed tooth, it’s important to talk to your dentist immediately to avoid these dangers.

Ludwig’s angina

This is a potentially life-threatening infection of the floor of the mouth that causes swelling in the connective tissue of the mouth and neck. This swelling can compromise the airway, causing difficult breathing.


Osteomyelitis is a bone infection that can be very challenging to treat. In extreme cases, it may require surgery to remove infected bone.


This occurs when the immune system has an exaggerated response to infection, resulting in widespread inflammation in the body. Blood clots can result, depriving the body’s organs of oxygen. If this occurs, there is a risk of septic shock and even death.

Brain abscess

Brain abscess occurs when the abscessed tooth infection reaches the brain and produces the same pockets of pus and spent immune cells.


Of the two types of meningitis – viral and bacterial – bacterial is the most rare, most severe, and most common form that can occur if abscessed tooth symptoms are left untreated.

Those people with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to abscessed tooth dangers, as infection in any area of the body is less easily warded off.

When to worry about an abscessed tooth

Any infection should be immediately attended to in order to prevent spreading and complications. Pain, fever, and facial swelling can indicate that the infection has spread to more areas of the mouth.

This is cause for concern and warrants an emergency trip to the dentist. If your dentist is not able to see you, a visit to urgent care or the emergency room is in order, with a follow-up dental visit as soon as possible.

Can an abscessed tooth kill you?

Can an abscessed tooth kill you? In theory, yes, but any infection in the body, if left unattended, has the potential to be mortally dangerous. The main abscessed tooth danger for additional complications is a general inattention to oral health.

Dr. Stuart Froum, president of the American Academy of Periodontology, pinpoints the problem, saying:

“If the eye is the window to the soul, the mouth is the window to the body. I see people coming in who are meticulously dressed, women and men, who have their hair and nails done, are very interested in health — and these are patients who haven’t seen a dentist in years.”

We can be very busy people who let our twice-yearly dental visits slide by, but oral health is an important part of our general well-being. There may be major health risks associated with abscessed teeth, but the best cure is an ounce of prevention. Visiting your dentist regularly is the best way to encourage oral health and spot any potential issues before they become serious.

Abscessed teeth dangers don’t have to mean major health risks. If you are experiencing the symptoms of tooth infection, contact your dentist today for a total evaluation. If you’re looking for a dentist in the Phoenix area who works on your schedule, click the button below to schedule at appointment at AZ Dentist. Your whole body will thank you for it!

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