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.