Abscessed Tooth Dangers: Why You Should Never Leave an Abscessed Tooth Untreated

Is there anything worse than a toothache? Whether it’s a blinding pain or a persistent dull ache, toothache can be inescapable at times.

One of the worst things you can do when experiencing toothache is to ignore this pain. A toothache is a warning sign that a sinister infection could be lingering.

Abscessed tooth dangers are a reality and can lead to severe complications down the line if left untreated.

To learn more about the danger of ignoring a tooth abscess and the potential consequences, we outline what you need to know in this blog…

Getting to Grips with Abscessed Tooth Dangers

If you’re wondering how dangerous a tooth infection really is, the most direct answer is: frightfully dangerous. If sepsis sets in, this could be life-threatening.

But in order to get a grip on the dangers faced by a lingering tooth abscess, it’s important to understand their symptoms and causes.

So, let’s get straight into it…

What is a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is a bacterial infection which has developed near the root of the tooth or in the gum, forming a pocket of pus.

An abscess can actually develop on any part of the mouth, but most commonly tends to develop near the root.

These infected pockets of pus do not simply fade away on their own – they must be treated with professional dental care.

These painful abscesses are usually caused by untreated cavities in a tooth or injuries to the mouth. A lack of dental hygiene can also lead to tooth infections.

A tooth abscess doesn’t need very long to form – once the infection has set in, it can form within as little as 24-48 hours.

There are two variations of dental abscesses:

1. The Periodontal Abscess

Also known as an abscess of the gum, this generally formed when an infection has set in between the gum and tooth.

This infection is exacerbated as bacteria and food debris begin to collect and fester in the wound.

If left untreated, this leads to severe periodontal disease which is an infection of the bone under the gum.

2. The Periapical Abscess

This more commonly known as a tooth abscess and occurs inside the tooth itself. This infection can develop when a tooth’s nerve ending begins to die.

These abscesses are found at the root tip and if left untreated can eventually spread to the surrounding bone of the mouth.

In some cases, a dental abscess may develop gradually over time and go unnoticed.

This is why regular dental check-ups are important in order to detect any lingering issues.

What Are the Symptoms of a Tooth Abscess?

One thing is for certain – when you have a tooth abscess you’ll know all about it.

The pain can be very intense and you’ll want to have your mouth assessed as soon as possible.

Generally, you’ll experience a continuous throbbing toothache in or near the infected tooth. Sharp, shooting pains may accompany this dull throbbing pain too.

Some of the more acute symptoms of an abscessed tooth include:

  • Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks
  • Experiencing pain when chewing
  • A swollen area along the jaw or gum line
  • Gum tenderness and redness
  • A bitter or sour taste in the mouth
  • Foul breath
  • Fever
  • Swollen neck glands

If you’ve experienced this pain for quite some time and it suddenly fades, this doesn’t mean the infection has passed. It just means the infection has potentially destroyed the pulp of your tooth.

If left untreated this infection could spread to other areas of your mouth and eventually down into your chest and respiratory area.

The Dangers of an Untreated Tooth Abscess

There are no two ways about it- leaving a tooth abscess untreated is dangerous and can lead to serious complications down the line.

Some of these potential consequences include:

A Dental Fistula

Leaving a tooth abscess untreated can lead to the development of a dental fistula, which is, essentially, a hollow tunnel through your jaw bone.

This is particularly difficult to treat and can leave a strange taste in your mouth as it allows pus to drain from the infection into your mouth.

Once a fistula has formed, this may remove the build-up of pressure and pain caused by the abscess. But this only leaves behind a more sinister issue.

Your infection is by no means healed and you will need extensive dental treatment to heal the fistula.

Oral Cysts

An oral cyst can generally form as a large bubble-like formation in the jaw bone if an abscess is not treated and drained correctly.

Cysts also tend to form after a damaged tooth is extracted, this is where a root canal may be necessary to save the infected nerve of a tooth.

In worse case scenarios, surgery may be needed to remove very large cysts which develop due to untreated abscesses.


Sepsis is a life-threatening condition which can completely take hold of your body and spread very quickly.

This is, however, a very extreme condition which can develop from an untreated tooth abscess.

If an abscess isn’t drained and properly treated, the bacteria from this infection can eventually spread to the head, chest, and neck and develop into sepsis.

How is a Tooth Abscess Treated?

Firstly, you will need to visit your dentist who will diagnose whether you have a tooth abscess or simply require a cavity filling.

They will do a thorough inspection of your mouth, check the state of your gums and potentially do an x-ray to check for the decay of the tooth or bone.

The dental procedure from here can be painful but it’s extremely important in ensuring abscess infection is completely eliminated.

Generally, your dentist will try to drain an abscess and treat an infection while saving your tooth. In other instances, the tooth may need to be fully removed.

A root canal is a common technique used to drain abscesses which have formed at the root of a tooth. If the root is also infected, this will generally be removed too.

Once the infection is completely cleared out, you will receive a tooth crown if the tooth can be saved.

Abscesses can also be drained via a small incision into the wound. This is generally common for abscesses found between the gum and tooth.

After your dental treatment, your dentist will prescribe an antibiotic to help fight off any remaining infection from your system.

Suspect You may Have a Tooth Abscess?

Looking for a family-friendly dental service you can trust? Doug Lewis Dentistry is your answer in the local Birmingham area.

Our cosmetic and family practice specializes in tooth abscess care and prevention in order to avoid abscessed tooth dangers.

Get in touch with our practice today for your annual check-up or the specialized dental care you need!