Can a decaying tooth affect your health?

This blogpost will answer the question Can a decaying tooth affect your health? 

And will cover topics like:What is tooth decay? What causes tooth decay?

The Dangers of Rotten Teeth.Who is at risk for tooth decay?

What are the symptoms of tooth decay and cavities?

How are tooth decay and cavities diagnosed?

What are the treatments for tooth decay and cavities?

Can tooth decay be prevented?

Can a decaying tooth affect your health?

Yes ,  tooth decay can affect your health. Tooth decay and other gum problems can affect your overall health and lead to serious medical conditions including brain and heart infections.

 What is tooth decay?

The gradual destruction of the tooth’s outermost layer enamel is called tooth decay. Enamel is the protective outer layer which when destroyed by the action of bacteria leads to tooth decay. As the bacteria in the mouth comes in contact with the starchy and sugary food,it produces acid which slowly destroys the enamel. This slow destruction ultimately results in a cavity.

What causes tooth decay?

As we all know there are millions of bacteria present in our mouth some of which may be good for us while some of them might be harmful.

The harmful bacteria is involved in the process of tooth decay.

When the food particles get accumulated in the mouth, the bacteria combine with it and form a thick, white sticky film covering the tooth, called plaque. The bacteria then starts producing acid which demineralizes the enamel leading to tooth decay. Also as the plaque deposits keep on adding overtime it becomes hard calculus which leads to gum inflammation and other gum diseases.

 As the enamel demineralizes, the enamel develops white spots which is the earliest sign of tooth decay. If the decay is caught at this stage it can be reversed by taking proper care of your teeth which involves good oral hygiene practices and limiting sugary and starchy foods.

We get fluoride from water,toothpaste etc. this helps the enamel to remineralize and repair itself. This is a natural process and helps protect the teeth by restoring the natural minerals of the teeth. But it is important to know that this process will not resolve your dental problems in later stages and hence you should take care of your teeth to prevent decay and other problems. If not, the process of tooth decay will continue over time and would lead to a cavity.

The Dangers of Rotten Teeth.

Trembling Hands

Decayed or rotten teeth can  make the immune system weak over time and this can result in weakness and show signs like trembling hands.

Low energy

Severe tooth decay consumes energy from the body’s reservoirs which results in low energy.

Poisoning in bloodstream

The decayed part of the tooth is full of harmful bacteria, which if left unattended can enter into the body through saliva. This can result in poisoning of the blood. This takes a long period of time to happen and is not an immediate consequence. The toxins can enter the body and poison blood and other organs as well.

Gum Disease

Ignoring decaying tooth can lead to gum inflammation in later stages. Gum inflammation leads to serious gum diseases like periodontitis which can even result in loss of one or multiple teeth. Periodontitis is a serious condition and has a very poor prognosis.  


Harmful bacteria and toxins from decaying tooth can overtime move into the bloodstream and other organs which can cause serious infection/sepsis. Sepsis is a blood infection that commonly attacks people with low immune systems.


A decaying tooth can lead to an abscess around the lower part of the roots. This tooth abscess could lead to a life-threatening condition called meningitis. Meningitis is the inflammation of the membranes near the spinal cord and brain. Meningitis is a serious illness and usually people who have a weak immune system are at a higher risk of acquiring this disease. 

Respiratory infections

People with attended dental caries and periodontal disease constantly breathe in harmful bacteria and toxins from decayed teeth and infected gums, which over time can lead to respiratory tract infections like  pneumonia and pulmonary diseases such as COPD


Diabetes and dental problems are a “two-way street”. People with diabetes have a higher chance of developing dental problems due to weaker immune systems. They are more susceptible to infections. At the same time people with decaying tooth have a difficult time controlling sugar,which increases the chances of developing diabetes. 


According to some studies, poor oral health has an effect on the brain. Some substances and toxins released by decaying tooth and inflamed gums can actually kill brian cells leading to dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Cardiovascular Disease

Decaying tooth slowly keeps on releasing bacteria and toxins. When the bacteria and toxins start entering the bloodstream, it might start accumulating in the arteries as plaque and harden. This leads to reduced thickness of the arteries making the blood flow constricted, this is called  atherosclerosis, and is very serious. This interference with the blood flow can lead to heart blockages and increased risk of heart attack.Also the damaged arteries may lead to hypertension and even a stroke. 

Pregnancy Complications

It is very important for pregnant women to practice good oral hygiene. A Lot of hormonal changes happen in the body during pregnancy and make pregnant women susceptible to oral infections. Development of any sort of infection during pregnancy can put the baby and the mother at risk of unexpected complications. Oral health problems in the mother can lead to premature birth and low birth weight in infants. 


It has been claimed that gum disease can lead to various overall health issues that can make it more difficult for a woman to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy. It can actually take longer for a woman with poor oral health to get pregnant than a woman who has good dental health.

Erectile Dysfunction

Having poor oral hygiene puts a man at an increased risk for suffering from erectile dysfunction. Chronic periodontal disease is known to be related with ED.


Poor oral health practices such as smoking or using tobacco products can lead to oral and throat cancers, but some other cancers are linked to gum diseases kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancers.

Kidney Disease

People with poor oral health, decaying teeth can acquire infection because of a weaker immune system. These infections can easily lead to kidney disease and may even lead to chronic kidney disease which  is a serious health problem that affects the kidneys, heart, bones, and blood pressure. Kidney disease can become fatal if it leads to kidney failure or cardiovascular disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The oral bacteria from gingivitis can increase inflammation throughout the body hence people with gum disease were four times more likely to have Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Who is at risk for tooth decay?

People who do not take care of their teeth and consume a lot of sugary and starchy foods are majorly at risk of tooth decay.

Some people might be at risk of tooth decay despite taking care of their teeth. These include:

People with reduced saliva secretions due to certain medications or medical conditions.

People with low fluoride intake

Young infants who drink from bottles are at risk, as their teeth are constantly exposed to sugars for longer durations.

Old people with receding gums. When the gums recede,the sensitive part becomes exposed which is very much susceptible to tooth decay.

What are the symptoms of tooth decay and cavities?

During the initial stage, there are no such symptoms but as the decay progresses the following symptoms can be felt and seen:

Tooth  pain

Tooth sensitivity to sweets, hot, or cold and sometimes air

White or brown stains on the tooth surface

A cavity, in later stages

An infection, which can lead to an abscess.

Facial swelling, and fever.

Bad breath

Unpleasant taste

How are tooth decay and cavities diagnosed?

Dentists usually do an oral examination where he checks for stains and also checks the strength of the tooth by using a dental probe. If the dentist finds that the decay has progressed further, he may do an x-ray to do a final diagnosis.

What are the treatments for tooth decay and cavities?

Treatment for tooth decay depends on its severity. 

Fluoride treatments

It is done when the decay is captured at a very early stage. Fluoride treatment helps the enamel to remineralize and repair itself.


If the decay is on the surface itself, the dentist would suggest you get a filling done. For this the decayed portion of the tooth is removed and fill it with a dental filling, thereby restoring the natural shape of the tooth.

Root canal

In cases where the decay has progressed to the roots and the pulp, your dentist would recommend a root canal treatment (RCT). In this the decayed pulp is removed and the root canals are cleaned and filled with an appropriate filing material. You may also need to get a crown after RCT to cover the tooth.

Extraction (removal of the tooth)

In severe cases where there is no hope that the tooth will survive, extraction is advised. After the extraction you may need to undergo further treatment for the replacement of the missing tooth.

Can tooth decay be prevented?

Practising good oral habits and dental hygiene can help avoid cavity, tooth decay and other dental problems. Here are some tips for maintaining good oral hygiene.

Brush with fluoride toothpaste after eating or drinking.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day using fluoride-containing toothpaste. Floss regularly to clean the food stuck in between the teeth.

Visit your dentist periodically for regular oral exams to get  professional teeth cleanings done when required. 

Drink fluoridated water. Usually tap water and most public water are fluoride treated and hence fit for drinking.

Avoid frequent snacking.

Try to eat tooth-healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables that stimulate saliva secretions.

Consider fluoride and antibacterial treatments, if your dentist suggests.. Chewing xylitol-based gum along with prescription fluoride and an antibacterial rinse can help reduce the risk of cavities.

Oral health is an indicator of overall health. Taking care to prevent oral health problems like gingivitis and periodontal disease can go a long way toward decreasing the risk for more serious health problems throughout the body.

Frequently asked questions (FAQS)

What happens if tooth decay is left untreated?

If tooth decay is left untreated for a long time it may lead to infection of the pulp and roots which is extremely painful and would require you to undergo a root canal treatment or worse, an extraction.

What are some serious side effects of tooth decay?

Tooth decay may lead to pain, tooth abscess, gum inflammation, tooth sensitivity etc. It can also lead to  serious health problems like kidney infection, cardiovascular disease, sepsis,meningitis etc

Can a tooth infection affect your whole body?

Yes, an untreated tooth infection can affect your whole body in later stages. It can lead to serious infections in the bloodstream, respiratory system, kidney, and other parts of the body.

Can rotten teeth cause stomach problems?

Yes, rotten teeth can cause stomach problems like pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting etc.

Can rotten teeth be replaced?

Yes, a rotten tooth can be replaced. When the tooth has decayed to a point where it cannot be saved, extraction (removal) of the tooth is the only option. After extraction your dentist would give you multiple options to replace the tooth such as implant, bridge etc.

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