How To Take Care Of An Infected Tooth: The Ultimate Guide

For the past couple of days you have been experiencing a terrible toothache.

Before, the tooth only felt sensitive or maybe hurt a little bit when biting but now…

It’s like all hell has broken loose!

You are sleep deprived and have been crying of pain every night for the past two days. Upon calling your dentist ‘friend’ at 3 am in the morning, you are advised to take a strong pain killer that will at least put you to sleep.

The next morning you feel a spot filled with pus on the gum of the respective tooth. The pain is back and its not letting you do anything.

You are now certain that this tooth of yours is infected. Work is piled up and you can only visit your dentist a few hours later.

So now your wondering How To Take Care Of An Infected Tooth while you wait for professional help?

In all honesty there isn’t much you can do.

To keep the pain at bay for a few hours you can take a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug (NSAID) or do a warm saline water rinse until you finally visit your dentist.

If you are travelling and it’ll be a few days to a week till you pay a visit to your dentist, you could get onto an antibiotic course and let the infection go down for a bit.

But sadly, the deal with dental infections is that medicines don’t work on them. They might bring the symptoms of an infection down for a few days to a week or so but the infection will come running back to you!

Make sure that you visit your dentist at any cost even if the pain killers and antibiotics have lessened down the symptoms.

Let’s answer some FAQs us dentists deal with on a daily basis.

Keep reading as it could be of some use to you 

What Are The Symptoms Of A Tooth Infection Spreading?

how to take care of an infected tooth

Although I have already mentioned briefly what a tooth infection feels like, lets understand its symptoms properly:

  • Severe, persistent and throbbing pain in the tooth that usually radiates towards the jaw, ears or the head.
  • Sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.
  • Pain when chewing; so much so that you are unable to eat from the respective side.
  • Swelling of the cheek.
  • Presence of a pocket of pus on the gum of the respective tooth.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck.

All the symptoms mentioned above indicate the presence of an infection in your tooth. If you visit your dentist as soon as possible and get the treatment done, there is little to no chance of it spreading.

However, some people like to keep taking antibiotics till they stop working and only visit their dentist when the infection has become a bigger problem.

And before this infection becomes extremely serious, there are signs that its spreading and needs immediate attention:

  • Feeling of general unwellness and fatigue, unable to do anything.
  • Excruciating pain in the respective tooth that is radiating towards your face, eyes, ears and causing a terrible headache.  
  • Fever could be a sign of sepsis which means the bacterial infection has spread and reached your bloodstream. In this case, medical help is required.
  • Swelling that isn’t just confined to your cheek or tooth but has spread and is equally painful. In this case, a general dentist can’t be of much help. Go to the emergency room or consult an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

Please go to your dentist as soon as you get a toothache and save yourself from a near death experience!

Can A Tooth Infection Go Away On Its Own?

The deal with bacteria and viruses is that once they become a part of your body, they never leave.

Even the use of antibiotics, especially in the case of tooth infections only ‘suppresses’ these bacteria but won’t make them completely go away.

This is the sole reason why a tooth infection can never go away on its own!

Don’t wait out your toothache thinking it might go away on its own. Go to your dentist and get the proper treatment done.

If your tooth can be saved, they will perform a root canal and will relieve your pain then and there. If the tooth is mostly eaten by the carious lesion and there is no room left for a root canal, a tooth extraction maybe carried out.

Apart from these two procedures, there isn’t a way out of dodging a tooth infection.

What Is The Best Natural Antibiotic For A Tooth Infection?

how to take care of an infected tooth

There is one thing that is very common amongst all sick people: they don’t want to visit their doctor. Same goes for people with a tooth infection.

They would rather go for home remedies than pay a visit to their dentist, hence the frequently asked question mentioned above.

But are there any natural antibiotics available that can take care of a tooth infection?

While there are some home remedies that can keep the bacteria at bay, its all temporary.

Permanent relief sadly cannot be provided by these natural solutions 🙁

If you still want to know about some remedies for temporary relief that us dentists recommend ourselves, here you go!

  • Hydrogen Peroxide – Peroxide has antibacterial properties and mixing equal parts of hydrogen peroxide with water is a great way of providing relief during a tooth infection. It also keeps your gums healthy and reduces plaque. Highly recommended.
  • Warm Saline Rinses – This is the one thing all us dentists swear by! Warm saline rinses are amazing when it comes to keeping your mouth clean of bacteria after an extraction. It also helps with swelling. This remedy is also a temporary measure when the infection is already there and spreading.
  • Cloves and clove oil – This one is a well spread philter of our grandmas and it works like anything! Putting clove directly on the infected tooth or diluting the clove oil and rinsing your mouth with it has helped many people with a gut-wrenching toothache in the middle of the night. So yeah, clove is great for relieving pain temporarily.
  • Garlic – We all know that garlic is a natural remedy with an ancient history of relieving pain and fighting bacteria. Many people even say that making a paste containing both garlic and clove and applying it on the infected tooth can provide instant relief.

That being said, no natural remedy can completely cure a tooth infection.

These options are best when you have very limited access to a dentist for a couple of days.

But leaving a tooth infection and keeping up with only the natural remedies isn’t at all a good idea.

You need to visit your dentist as soon as possible!

Is Tooth Abscess An Infection?

how to take care of an infected tooth

The presence of a puss pocket that kind of looks like a pimple on the gum of the respective tooth is called a tooth abscess. In many cases the pus starts oozing out on its own and gives an extremely foul odor to the mouth.

Other than that, we need to understand that tooth abscess is a cardinal sign of an infection. Its possible that a tooth is infected without the presence of abscess or a sinus pocket.

However, when an abscess is present, its also possible that there is swelling of the corresponding cheek as well and the pus has spread. In such a situation, going to a dentist is paramount as the swelling and abscess will only go away once the pus has been drained out.

Your dentist will put a slight cut into the abscess and let the pus drain out. Many times, they will put a plastic drain to keep the area open in order to let the pus drain completely and the swelling to decrease.

Once that is done, they will move forward with their treatment. If a root canal therapy is needed, they will proceed with that and make sure the infection is removed so you are relieved of the pain once and for all.

It may take some time to complete the procedure and ‘save’ your tooth, maybe even a few visits, but it’s the only way of saying bye to the infection whilst saving the tooth.

If the infection had spread due to a big cavity which has eaten most of your tooth structure away, sadly the only option is to extract the tooth out.

If this is what your dentist has recommended, please look for options to replace the missing tooth and save yourself from further complications.

The Infectious Summary

Our mouths are housing millions of bacteria and when I say millions, it’s not even an exaggeration!

Most of them won’t cause any harm to you but letting the unnecessary bacteria accumulate by neglecting oral hygiene can lead to several problems.

One of them is a tooth infection.

According to research, toothache caused by an infection is one of the worst pains ever. If you have experienced it, you would know. It feels like everything from your tooth to your jaw to your ears to the head is throbbing with pain.

Toothache won’t let you sleep, eat, focus or do anything!

When that happens, home remedies like saltwater rinses, clove and ginger, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda can be life savers.

If you have an NSAID at home, even better but despite it all, you cannot dodge a dental infection and visiting your dentist is a must!

That’s because a dental infection cannot go away on its own and if left untreated, it will spread and become an even bigger problem. Thus, if your tooth is sensitive and painful to biting or chewing, this might be the first sign of an infection.

If the appearance of a swelling that looks like a pimple has appeared, you most likely have a dental abscess. In all these cases, please go to your dentist and get the appropriate treatment carried out.

If the infection is followed by generalized weakness, swelling and fever that won’t go away, professional medical help may become necessary.

If left untreated for a long period of time, the infection may even spread to the sinuses if present in the upper jaw and the respiratory tract if spread from the teeth of the lower jaw.

Therefore, taking a tooth infection casually is the worst possible thing you can do to yourself. Get that cavity filled before it proceeds into an infection and get that root canal done before extraction becomes the only choice.

Follow my advice, and you will thank me later 🙂


Oxford Handbook of Clinical Dentistry

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