How Long Until a Tooth Infection Kills you: Risks & Prevention
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How Long Until a Tooth Infection Kills You: Understanding Risks & Prevention

February 25, 2024

Toothaches are a common occurrence. Most of the time, simple home remedies may be enough to deal with a toothache. But sometimes, a toothache may be a sign of something more severe, like a tooth infection. It is essential to understand that timely intervention is vital so that you don’t have to Google how long before a tooth infection kills you. 

There is no such timeline available because the severity of an infection, mortality, and morbidity due to an infection depends upon various factors like age, type of infection, past medical history, present health status, time at which one seeks treatment, and so on. 

This article on how long until a tooth abscess kills you aims to help you avoid letting a tooth infection become life-threatening. We will explore the timeline of the progression of a tooth infection, recognize symptoms of tooth infection spreading to the body and other danger signs, and explore preventive as well as remedial measures. 

Understanding the risks and when to seek treatment can help you keep a healthy smile and ensure overall well-being. 

Tooth Infection: How does it progress?

Tooth infections are also called dental abscesses which are a result of bacterial invasion of dental tissue. Bacteria enter the inner pulp of your tooth by gaining access through a cavity in the tooth, a crack, or exposed gum tissues. Sometimes, trauma from a brush or something else can also give access to the bacteria to invade. These bacteria can then multiply, leading to inflammation and pus formation. These pus-containing pockets can form in the tooth, the gum surrounding the tooth, bone, or soft tissues. Initially, you will have mild discomfort. If you do not treat it, the infection will progress, and you may face serious complications. 

Not everyone with a cavity or exposed gum develops an infection, but these are risk factors, which is why you must seek treatment.

How can a tooth infection spread to the body

Most tooth infections are localized and discomfort is also localized. But there is always a chance that the infection may spread quickly and symptoms become more pronounced.

When an infection progresses, it can spread to the root of the tooth, becoming a painful abscess. When it is not treated, it will extend and travel to areas like the mouth, jawbone, and even to blood. An infection, when it reaches the blood, can travel to the heart and brain.

Signs and Symptoms of a Severe Tooth Infection

  • Intense throbbing pain that may radiate to the jaw, neck, and ears. The pain may worsen over time.
  • Inflamed gums may be swollen, red, sore, and may even ooze out pus.
  • Fever with chills, malaise
  • Pain and difficulty in chewing and opening mouth
  • Foul taste
  • Bad breath
  • Loose tooth
  • Infected tooth becomes sensitive to hot and cold foods and drinks
  • Bump on the gums

Symptoms of Tooth Infection If It Spreads to the Body

When left untreated, a tooth infection can spread to the body, especially in immunocompromised people and older adults. 

Symptoms of tooth infection spreading across the body include:

  • Lymph nodes in the neck or jaw may be swollen
  • Problems with swallowing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Skin rash
  • Facial swelling and flushing
  • High fever
  • Swelling on one side of the neck

If you notice these symptoms, you should not delay getting medical attention as the infection can now spread to the blood. Delaying will also cause extensive damage to the dental tissue. Get your appointment at Kirkland Premier Dentistry for expert help.

Risks and Complications of a Tooth Infection

Although it is rare for tooth infections to turn profound, there are potential complications when a tooth infection is neglected. These are:

  • Sepsis from a tooth infection: Sepsis is a life-threatening condition at any age. It is when an infection triggers the body’s response, resulting in injury to its tissues and organs. An untreated tooth infection can lead to sepsis when an infection reaches the bloodstream. Early treatment of a tooth infection effectively prevents sepsis.
    • Signs of sepsis from tooth infection are:
      • High body temperature(fever) or low body temperature(hypothermia)
      • Rapid and shallow breathing
      • Elevated heart rate
      • Severe pain and discomfort
      • Confusion or delirium

In the later stages, there will be a persistent skin rash, extreme shivering, reduced urine output, slurred speech, loss of consciousness, etc. It is a medical emergency where the patient should be immediately taken to the ER. A tooth infection can potentially kill you if it progresses to sepsis, which is a rare case scenario.

  • A tooth infection can spread to the brain: In rare cases, a neglected tooth infection can spread to the brain. Here, the least common way of spread is a direct spread where the jawbone and fascial spaces are infected. From here, the infection can further spread to the base of the skull and potentially enter the brain. It rarely occurs. A more common route, and again something that rarely happens, is when infection from the bloodstream travels to the brain. In both cases, a brain abscess forms.
    • Signs of tooth infection spread to the brain include:
      • Signs of a tooth infection
      • Severe headache
      • Fever
      • Confusion
      • Seizures
      • Loss of consciousness 
      • Vomiting 

Again, this is an emergency, and you must go to the ER. Prioritise oral care and seek early treatment so that you never have to worry about complications.

  • A tooth infection can potentially cause Ludwig’s angina: This is a result of a progressing tooth infection that may extend beyond the tooth and block airways, causing breathing difficulties and requiring immediate medical attention.

Treatment and Prevention of Complications From a Tooth Infection 

If you suspect you have a tooth abscess or infection, seeking immediate dental consultation is essential. Treatment may include antibiotics, draining the abscess, root canal treatment, or an extraction when the infection is severe enough to have damaged the tooth beyond saving.

Delaying treatment for an infected tooth or gum can prolong your pain and other symptoms, may require additional procedures, and thus add to the costs while also prolonging the recovery period. 

You can avoid tooth infections and complications arising out of it by maintaining good oral hygiene which includes brushing and flossing using suitable techniques, decreasing your consumption of sugary foods and drinks, and getting regular cleaning from an experienced dentist. If you have bad breath, a damaged tooth, swollen gums, or other dental issues, you should consult a dentist. Never skip your regular checkups.

How long before a tooth infection kills you? 

Is there a simple answer?

The time frame in which a tooth infection can become severe and then turn life-threatening varies greatly. It does not happen overnight, and it would typically take weeks to months for an untreated infection to spread and become fatal. The timeline for this progression from a simple to severe tooth infection is influenced by various factors such as:

  • Overall health: like most infections, it is people with compromised immune systems, like those undergoing chemotherapy or having HIV, and people with chronic diseases like diabetes or kidney failure, who are more susceptible to a rapid progression and spread of tooth infection to other parts of the body.
  • The severity of the infection is another crucial factor here. Along with this, how an individual’s body responds to an infection also plays a role. Early treatment will halt the progression, while delayed treatment may not be enough, and aggressive intervention may be required. 
  • Underlying medical conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and a few others can also lead to a worse prognosis in case of a tooth infection that spreads.
  • Age can be a factor here, too, as older adults may not be able to fight infections well. This is especially true for those who have other diseases. 

The risk of morbidity and mortality from tooth infections is indeed shallow, but prompt dental treatment is essential to avoid all types of complications and for general well-being.


The death rate from tooth infection is meager today thanks to advanced medical care and awareness. This is especially true for developed countries where awareness is generally high. It is essential to recognize the early signs and symptoms of tooth infection and not wait for things to worsen. Early intervention makes all the difference. A healthy smile is not just a beautiful feature but also reflects your oral health. Get an appointment with experts at Kirkland Premier Dentistry for regular checkups and any dental health issues. 


1. What is the duration of tooth abscess with antibiotics?

Antibiotics are often prescribed to treat a tooth infection, where a typical course lasts for 7-10 days. You have to complete the course, even if symptoms improve earlier, to ensure the complete eradication of bacteria.

2. Can Listerine kill tooth infection?

Mouthwash like Listerine may be prescribed to you, or you can use over-the-counter mouthwashes on your own as well. They do help you maintain good oral hygiene by reducing the number of bacteria and helping with bad breath, but they don’t treat a tooth or gum infectionIt would help if you had professional dental care and treatment for an infection.

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