What is a tooth infection?
There are two main causes of tooth infection that we as dentists normally see. Alderley dentist, Dr Panny Hou explains…
- First cause of tooth infection: Tooth decay – Decay on the tooth is the mostcommon cause of a tooth infection. When decay has been left on the tooth for a long time it will gradually work its way into the nerve, which will cause the nerve to die. Bacteria then feeds off this dying nerve, causing infection that surrounds and enters the tooth. This infection will cause a tooth ache or severe pain to the person with the decay.
- Second cause of tooth infection: Trauma to the tooth or mouth – The second main cause of tooth infection is from trauma to the tooth. If a tooth is damaged, through a fall or something hitting it, then the nerve can die and bacteria can enter the tooth.
Regardless of the cause, infection arises from bacteria attacking the dying or dead nerve. If the infection is left untreated it will become an abscess (infections at the ends of the roots) and can then cause damage to the bone surrounding the root of the tooth.
Treatment for tooth infection
Once a tooth is infected, a root canal treatment is necessary of the patient chooses to save their tooth. Otherwise our only other option is to remove the infected tooth completely. Most people prefer to save their tooth as it generally will function better compared to the option of an artificial tooth.
What is a gum infection?
As well as tooth infections we also see patients with gum infections. A gum infection is basically when plaque and bacteria start to burrow underneath the gum pocket (the pocket is space between the tooth and the gum).
Normally the gum is snug against the tooth but when you have a gum infection it will burrow down into this gum pocket making it impossible for the patient to clean the infection themselves.
When we look in a patient’s mouth, the gum area is usually inflamed and swollen and the nearby teeth may be tender to bite on. At your regular check-up or when you come in with tooth pain we will use a little probe to determine the health of the gums.
A healthy gum will usually come away from the tooth no more than 2-3 mm. However, when there is a gum infection, there will be a deep gum pocket in that area and it may come away 6 – 8mm. In some cases this deep pocket may be accompanied with a pus discharge from the area. It’s not uncommon for patients with gum infections to complain of bad breath or a bad taste in their mouths.
Treatment for a gum infection
Once a gum infection has been diagnosed, we carry out a deep gum clean, to clean out the infection, and the bacteria causing the infection, from underneath the gums. For the patient’s comfort, this procedure is often carried out under local anaesthetic. Timely treatment and maintenance of gum health following treatment is important to prevent the loss of any teeth through the gum infection.
How does a tooth infection feel vs a gum infection?
Both tooth and gum infections can give you pain but the pain is a little bit different.
Tooth-related infections are often associated with a constant and throbbing pain. This is the type of pain that will wake you up at night.
The pain will start off as a sharp pain and then gradually become a dull throbbing ache that lingers for hours. Painkillers don’t normally seem to work much when the toothache gets to this stage.
With a gum infection on the other hand, the pain isn’t as bad. Many patients have reported that the pain of a gum infection is a lot duller than a tooth infection. Nevertheless, treatment is still necessary to alleviate pain, rid the infection and prevent tooth loss.
It is best to see a dentist with this problem
If you suspect you have a tooth or gum infection we recommend that you get this checked out by your dentist as soon as possible. Call us on (07) 3856 2144 to book your appointment with one of of our friendly dentists.