A dental infection, within or below a tooth, can be caused by tooth decay or a broken tooth that causes the pulp to become infected. The pulp is the part of the tooth that contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and large nerves. When an infection occurs, bacteria can move from the tooth to the bone or tissue below, forming a dental abscess. A dental infection can lead to sepsis.
Sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning, sepsis is the body’s often deadly response to infection. Sepsis kills and disables millions and requires early suspicion and treatment for survival.
Sepsis and septic shock can result from an infection anywhere in the body, such as pneumonia, influenza, or urinary tract infections. Worldwide, one-third of people who develop sepsis die. Many who do survive are left with life-changing effects, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), chronic pain fatigue, organ dysfunction (organs don’t work properly) and/or amputations.
Signs of an infection in the mouth include:
As with all infections, an infection in your mouth should be treated as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of complications, including sepsis. Salt water mouth rinses while waiting to see your dentist may ease the pain or discomfort.
If your dentist feels you have an infection, you will probably be given a prescription for an antibiotic. It’s important that you take this antibiotic as directed until it is finished, even if the pain and swelling seem to have gone away. Feeling better does not necessarily mean that the infection has gone away.
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