infected toothMany common dental problems can be solved by improving or increasing the amount of time you spend brushing your teeth and flossing. With others, like tooth sensitivity and cavities, you’ll need to schedule a dental appointment. If you have an infected tooth, however, you should take this very seriously as it can create other health problems for you and become quite painful. How do you know if your tooth is infected?

Tooth Pain Fake Outs 

Some oral health problems create discomfort, and patients may think they have an infected tooth but don’t. These include lower levels of sensitivity to heat and cold, teeth grinding or clenching, and sinus infections. If you have any of these and they are causing you pain, you should see a dentist, but they do not require emergency dental care. 

How Do You Know You Have an Infected Tooth?

Watch for tooth or jaw pain that hurts more when you eat or chew. An infection results when the bacteria in your mouth enters the inner pulp of your tooth and infects the root or your gums. This can be very painful. The pain can range from sharp to throbbing, and it is usually a continuous pain that will radiate out across your face and jaw making those areas red, swollen, and painful too. 

Usually the pain or discomfort from an infected tooth will be worse when you are eating or drinking because heat, cold, and pressure all make the pain worse. If you have shooting pain when you drink a cup of coffee, call your dentist. That is not normal. 

Bad breath is another sign that you may have an infection. The overgrowth of bacteria will cause your breath to smell worse. If the infection progresses far enough, the pulp may die and your tooth may change color to brown or gray. This may also smell like decay. A graying tooth is a telltale sign of infection. Don’t ignore it.

You can have a dental infection without pain too, so watch for swelling, redness, and pus. You may also notice a gum boil, which can look like a pimple on your gums near the infected tooth. All of these are signs of infection. The pus is your body’s attempt to fight the bacterial invasion, but it’s also what causes the pain. As the pus accumulates, it creates the pressure on your tooth which often registers as pain. 

If your tooth infection is very bad, you will probably not be able to tell which tooth is infected because the whole area will hurt. Your dentist will be able to diagnose the tooth with dental x-rays. If the infection goes untreated long enough, the inflammation will cause damage that may be irreversible. If this is the case, you will likely need a root canal to address the issue. 

If you are experiencing shooting or throbbing pain, redness, swelling, fever, or swollen glands, call a dentist right away. You should not wait to get help. Because your mouth is close to your brain, any infection should be treated right away before it can spread.