27 March, 2019

What Can Happen If A Tooth Infection Is Left Untreated?


If you have a painful tooth infection, understandably you need relief fast. There’s plenty of advice on the internet on ‘how to treat an infected tooth yourself’. Suggested home remedies include hot and cold compresses, salt water gargles and acupressure to sucking on a peppermint teabag.

While some may bring some short-term comfort, others have not been proved to be effective at all. None are an alternative to a consultation with your dentist. Wasting time on non-medical relief can prove expensive in the long run – not to mention dangerous.


A persistent throbbing toothache, or pain in the jaw, neck or ear, could all be indicators you have a tooth infection. Add sensitivity to changes in temperature, or to biting or chewing, and swelling or tenderness in your face or neck, or a fever, and you are likely to be suffering from an abscess that needs urgent treatment.

A dental abscess is a common cause of severe tooth pain and is caused by a bacterial infection starting in the tooth or gums. If left untreated, an abscess can develop into a serious infection that can spread through the jaw and around the body.

If your immune system is compromised due to age or an underlying health condition, an infection can quickly escalate into something more severe.

Bad bacteria

Bacteria is present in everybody’s mouth, but by the time you can feel pain a bacterial infection has already started to cause damage. If a toothache lasts more than a day or two, there is a good chance you have developed an abscess.

Complications from a tooth infection can include sepsis, where the bacteria spreads to the blood, meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes near the spinal cord and the brain, or Ludwig’s Angina, where the infection swells the throat and can block the airway. All these conditions are in severe and require hospitalisation.

See your dentist

Without proper professional attention, at best your painful tooth will not get any better. By trying home remedies first, you are merely delaying the inevitable visit to the dentist.

A tooth abscess left untreated will cause a great deal more pain and damage and take longer to resolve, with a dental bill to match. If you let your dental receptionist know you are in pain, you will be given a priority appointment.

If you can’t be seen immediately, for example it is night time or you are away from home, an over the counter anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen may reduce the pain in the short term.
Applying a bag of ice or frozen veggies to your cheek can also give some relief, by numbing the area and reducing inflammation.

The best self-help for a tooth infection is to book an appointment with your dentist. At Dentistry Plus, you can make one over the phone or online at one of our five clinics in Perth which are covered by all health insurance funds. We have weekend and late night opening twice a week – and we always have an emergency dentist available.