Can tooth decay lead to death?

This blog post will answer the question Can tooth decay lead to death? And will include the following topics:Can a tooth infection kill you?

How does a tooth become infected?Symptoms of tooth infection. Symptoms of tooth infection spreading to the body.

What happens when a tooth infection spreads?

How is a tooth infection treated? Which factors influence the type of treatment for an infected tooth?

Preventing a tooth infection

When to see your dentist

Can home remedies help treat a tooth infection?

What Happens if You Don’t Treat a Cavity?

Can tooth decay lead to death?

Yes, tooth decay can lead to death. Untreated tooth decay can lead to serious infections that can spread in different parts of the body and lead to life-threatening conditions.

Can a tooth infection kill you?

When germs reach the core of your tooth, which comprises a soft tissue called pulp, an infection develops. As the infection spreads, a pocket of pus forms around the infected tooth. This is referred to as a dental abscess. Death from a tooth infection is today incredibly uncommon, thanks to developments in medicine and dental hygiene. However, if you feel that you have an infected tooth, you should seek immediate medical attention.

A tooth infection, if left untreated, can spread to other parts of the body, resulting in serious, perhaps life-threatening problems.

How does a tooth become infected?

When bacteria enters the tooth through a chipped, fracture, or cavity, the tooth becomes infected. If you have any of the following conditions, you are more likely to get a tooth infection:

Poor dental hygiene, such as not brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day; a high sugar diet, such as eating sweets and drinking soda; and dry mouth, which is typically caused by age or as a side effect of some drugs.

Symptoms of tooth infection

Symptoms of an infected tooth can include:

Throbbing Tooth Pain

Throbbing Pain In The Jawbone, Ear Or Neck (Usually On The Same Side As The Tooth Pain)

Pain That Worsens When You Lie Down

Sensitivity To Pressure In The Mouth

Sensitivity To Hot Or Cold Foods And Drinks

Cheek Swelling

Tender Or Swollen Lymph Nodes In The Neck


Bad Breath

Unpleasant Taste In Mouth

Symptoms of tooth infection spreading to the body

When an infected tooth is not controlled, the infection may spread to other parts of your body, potentially causing death. The following signs and symptoms indicate that the infection in the tooth has spread:

You feel unwell




You run a fever

skin flushing



Your face swells

swelling that makes it difficult to fully open your mouth

swelling that impedes swallowing

swelling that impedes breathing

You become dehydrated

reduction in frequency of urination

darker urine


Your heart rate increases

rapid pulse rate


Your breathing rate increases

over 25 breaths per minute

You experience stomach pain



What happens when a tooth infection spreads?

If a tooth infection is not treated, it can spread to the face and neck.

Bacteria present in our mouth come from meals, saliva, and plaque. These bacteria can sometimes colonise a tooth or below the gumline, resulting in a tooth infection or abscess.

Tooth infections are usually easily and effectively treated. However, if someone  delays the treatment,they can be at risk of developing one or more of the following complications:


A tooth infection that affects the bone that surrounds the tooth.

Cavernous sinus thrombosis:

An infection of the blood vessels within the sinuses.


An infection of the skin and fat directly beneath the skin.

Parapharyngeal abscess:

An abscess at the back of the mouth.


A serious medical condition in which the immune system severely reacts to an infection in the blood.

Ludwig’s angina:

A severe bacterial illness that affects the floor of the mouth and the area below the tongue.

Necrotizing fasciitis:

A severe infection that leads to soft tissue death in the body


An inflammation of the mediastinum, which is a space located between your lungs


An inflammation of your heart’s inner lining, called the endocardium

brain abscess which is a collection of pus that can form in the brain

How is a tooth infection treated?

The type of treatment that a person receives for a tooth infection will depend on several factors, including:

The exact location of the abscess

To what extent, the infection has spread

The extent of the immune system’s reaction to the infection

Possible treatments for a tooth infection include those below:

Root canal treatment

To cure an abscess deep within the tooth, root canal therapy (RCT) may be required. Drilling into the tooth to remove accumulated pus and germs at the root is part of the treatment.

The dentist will next fill the cavity with gutta-percha, a rubber-like compound. To avoid additional infections, they will fix the tooth with a crown or a permanent filling once it has recovered.


When RCT alone isn’t always enough to get rid of a tooth infection. A dentist may prescribe an apicoectomy, also known as a root end resection, in such instances. The end of the tooth root, as well as any contaminated tissue, is removed during this surgery, which requires opening up the gums.


A dentist can also prescribe antibiotics to reduce the severity of the  infection and to stop it from spreading.

If the infection here has already spread, the duration of antibiotic therapy may need to be extended. Alternatively, they may need to switch to a different kind of antibiotic.

If the infection is severe, a person may need to stay in the hospital and receive antibiotics through an intravenous drip.


In some circumstances, it may be extremely important to drain pus straight from the source of the infection.

For example, drainage may be required to remove pus from a parapharyngeal abscess near the rear of the mouth.

Treatment of sepsis

Sepsis is a catastrophic medical complication that arises when the immune system aggressively overreacts to a blood infection. Untreated sepsis can result in septic shock. Septic shock causes a person’s blood pressure to drop critically low, which can lead to organ failure and even death.

Sepsis patients will require treatment in an intensive care unit. Intravenous antibiotics and fluids are commonly used in this type of therapy.

Other treatments may be necessary to support the body’s organs and limit the damage resulting from the infection. Such treatments may include dialysis or surgery.

Which factors influence the type of treatment for an infected tooth?

The location of the abscess

The extent of the infection

Areas where the disease has spread

The infection’s impact on the immune system

Preventing a tooth infection

There are several things that you can do in your daily life to help prevent a tooth infection from occurring. Examples include:

brushing your teeth with a fluoridated toothpaste twice each day

flossing between your teeth each day

reducing your intake of sugary or starchy foods and drinks

scheduling regular dental check-ups and cleanings

seeing a dentist immediately if you experience any tooth pain or injury, or maybe a chip or crack

When to see your dentist

Not all toothaches cause major medical issues. However, if you have a toothache, it is advisable to seek care as soon as possible.

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



trouble breathing

difficulty swallowing

red gums

pain when chewing or biting

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

Can home remedies help treat a tooth infection?

While waiting to receive treatment, you can try the following home remedies to help ease symptoms:

Try ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or acetaminophen as over-the-counter pain relievers (Tylenol).

Soft snacks and meals should be consumed, and you should chew on the opposite side of your mouth from the infection.

Avoid foods and beverages that may aggravate an infected tooth, such as those that are extremely hot or cold, acidic, spicy, or hard or crunchy.

Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and prevent unnecessary flossing around the infected tooth.

Rinse your mouth with a saltwater or hydrogen peroxide rinse to alleviate pain and swelling.

Place a cold compress near the affected area to ease pain and swelling.

Apply garlic, since it has antimicrobial properties to the affected tooth, it can help fight infection temporarily. 

The home remedies above are only for use when you’re awaiting medical attention for your tooth infection. They shouldn’t be used as a substitute for seeking treatment.

What Happens if You Don’t Treat a Cavity?

Untreated cavity can lead to some serious issues, such as

A Bad Cavity Can Bring Further Decay

Ignoring a cavity will only give it more time to grow and cause more decay. And as the cavity grows in size it starts spreading to adjacent teeth. This process will go on and multiple teeth become at risk of developing the decay and also there are more chances to develop conditions like gingivitis and periodontitis. In such situations you may even need to undergo multiple extractions..

How Serious Cavities Impact Your Nerves

If cavities are left untreated they eventually reach the pulp,where all the nerve endings of the tooth are present. This can result in excruciating  pain and you may also experience extreme tooth sensitivity to hot and cold food and drinks and even air. When this stage of tooth decay is reached, you will have to undergo a root canal treatment and sometimes even an extraction.

Infection from a Bad Cavity

The bacteria from the decay can cause infection in the mouth and jaw. This can lead to pain, facial swelling, restricted mouth opening, loss of appetite and other health concerns. 

Illness and Death

It is always a possibility for the infection from an untreated cavity to enter the body. You can develop different organ infections if this happens, like kidney infections, stomach infections and sometimes even life-threatening issues like cardiovascular problems.

A cavity should not be left untreated in any case, and that’s why you need to keep a check on your oral habits and your oral health.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Can rotten teeth poison your body?

Yes, rotten teeth can poison your body. The bacteria from tooth infection can travel into your body infecting the blood and other organs, which can lead to serious medical conditions.

What happens if tooth decay is left untreated?

If a tooth decay is left untreated, it grows deep into the tooth damaging the pulp and may even form an abscess. This can be extremely painful and requires immediate medical care.

Can a rotten tooth affect your brain?

Yes, a rotten tooth can affect your brain. Infection from a decayed tooth can travel into the bloodstream and can cause severe brain infections like cavernous sinus thrombosis, meningitis etc.

How does tooth decay affect your heart?

Yes, tooth decay can affect the heart. Untreated tooth decay can lead to infection of various organs of the body including the heart. You may develop serious heart issues like endocarditis.

Can a decayed tooth be saved?

Yes, a decayed tooth can be saved with right and timely medical attention.

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