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5 Symptoms of a Tooth Infection Spreading to the Rest of the Body

Did you know that you can die from a toothache? That's a sobering thought.

Most of the time toothaches are caused by infections that are merely painful inconveniences. But if the infection worsens and spreads to the rest of the body, it can be serious. For a small number of people, it's even deadly.

To avoid this happening to you, you can simply learn the symptoms of a tooth infection spreading to the body. Then you'll know when to seek immediate medical attention for your annoying toothache.

What Is a Tooth Abscess?

First of all, let's talk about what a tooth abscess is. Simply put, it is a pocket of pus in your tooth. Though it can occur anywhere in your tooth, it is common to see it at the tip of the tooth's root.

The following symptoms are indicators that you have an abscess.

  • A nagging toothache
  • Sudden, extreme sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Sensitivity while chewing and biting
  • Facial swelling
  • A pocket of pus (like a large pimple) on your gum line near the affected tooth
  • Swollen lymph nodes under your jaw

With proper treatment, a tooth abscess doesn't normally get too severe. Your dentist will simply drain the infection. To save the tooth, you may need a root canal. It's not the most fun way to spend an afternoon, but it's a relatively simple fix.

What Are The Symptoms of a Tooth Infection Spreading to the Body?

If an abscess ruptures, you may notice a sudden foul taste or even salty fluid in your mouth. You'll probably also notice that your pain subsides and think that you are out of the woods.

Unfortunately, this isn't necessarily true.

The rupture can be one of the first signs that the infection is beginning to spread. If it enters the bloodstream it can cause a serious condition called sepsis. This is when things get life-threatening.

If you notice the rupture, seek medical help immediately. However, the abscess won't always rupture on its own. Or it may rupture when the problem has already become quite severe.

Thus, if you notice any of these other 5 symptoms, even without an obvious rupture, you should seek emergency medical help at once.

1. Feeling Unwell

The first thing you may notice is that you start to feel unwell. That nagging toothache may turn into a nagging headache. The pain may also travel up your jawbone and into your ear.

You may also notice that you start to feel fatigued like you are about to come down with something. In some cases, you may have bouts of dizziness as the pain and infection interfere with the workings of your inner ear.

2. Fever

Fever is your body's natural defense against infection. A body temperature that is too high is a hostile environment for many of the bacteria that cause infection. Thus, your body is attempting to kill off the invaders.

The trouble is that a high body temperature isn't necessarily good for your body and the good things in it either. If your fever stays consistently above 101 degrees Fahrenheit, this could be an indication that sepsis is beginning to set in. Likewise, a drop in temperature below 96.8 degrees Fahrenheit could also be a symptom.

You may also experience chills and shivering--classic fever symptoms.

3. Swelling

Minimal swelling in your face is a normal symptom of the abscess. But if it persists or you are not able to get in to see your dentist, go to the emergency room.

Left untreated it can begin to affect your breathing and swallowing. Not only is this a sign that the infection is spreading, but also it can be life-threatening if it closes off your airway enough.

4. Increased Heart and Breathing Rate

Do you notice that your heart starts beating faster than normal? What about your breathing? Do you feel like you're panting to get enough air?

Both of these are indications that sepsis is beginning to set in. If this happens to you, don't wait to get in to see your dentist. You need to see a doctor right away.

5. Dehydration and Stomach Pain

You may notice that you don't have to pee very much. And when you do, your urine is a darker color than normal. This means that you're getting dehydrated and moving into the second stage of sepsis.

You may also begin to experience stomach pain and even diarrhea and vomiting. Both of these symptoms will speed your rate of dehydration and cause even more severe problems.


Knowing how to avoid an abscess altogether is even better than knowing the symptoms of one that's spreading. Be sure to maintain good oral health habits like these.

  • Brush twice a day
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Use mouthwash to help kill unwanted bacteria
  • Swap out your toothbrush for a new one every 3-4 months
  • Visit your dentist as recommended
  • Avoid eating too much sugar

These are all simple tips that should already be a regular part of your oral care routine. If not, though, maybe learning about the seriousness of an abscess and what a tooth infection can do to you will be a motivating factor.

Stay Healthy!

Do yourself a favor. Know these symptoms of a tooth infection spreading to the body so you'll know what to watch out for. And practice good oral hygiene and health every day to reduce the risk of ever having to deal with something as unpleasant as an abscessed tooth, root canal, or sepsis.

Looking for a new dentist? We're here to help! Feel free to contact us today to learn about and schedule preventative services. We also provide emergency care if you think you may already have an abscess that needs to be taken care of.

* All information subject to change. Images may contain models. Individual results are not guaranteed and may vary.