Bacteria in your mouth can build up and eventually cause a tooth infection, which in turn may spread to the sinuses, lymph nodes and other parts of the body. A blow to the mouth may also kill tooth pulp and lead to infection. If left untreated, infections can kill. Tooth infections don't always announce themselves with a toothache.
Oral health vital
Bacteria from an untreated tooth infection can travel to the brain and cause an absess, sometimes resulting in death. Good oral health helps prevent gum disease, which occurs when bacteria build up and enter the bloodstream, sometimes during brushing, flossing or even chewing, according to family dentist Dr. Dan Peterson.
How infections start
While bacteria have been linked to heart attacks, they also can lead to tooth infections. Teeth get infected when deep cavities allow germs to enter the tooth's pulp chamber, according to Dr. Minh Nguyen, a Houston dentist. These germs lead to an infection, and the pulp dies. The infection pus can gradually accumulate at the root tip and create a bone hole, or an abscess. If you get punched in the mouth or suffer a blow to a tooth, this can also kill the pulp and infect a tooth. An infected tooth cannot heal on its own, Nguyen said, and as the infection grows it will weaken your immune system. If the tooth is near your maxillary sinus, in your cheek above your upper teeth, it can trigger a sinus infection.
How infections spread
Combined tooth and sinus infections can spread into your lymph nodes in your neck, according to Dr. Howard Finnk. Then the infection becomes more dangerous because it may constrict your throat, making it harder or impossible to breathe or swallow. Usually, a tooth infection will make the bone inside swell and be extremely painful. Some patients experience jaw or cheek aches rather than tooth pain. Sinus infection symptoms include pain or tenderness in the sinus area, nasal congestion, headache, a foul odour or bad breath, postnasal drip in the back of the throat, nasal discharge, fever and mouth pain.
Tooth infections cause 10 per cent of all sinusitis, according to Dr. Peterson. The first maxillary molar, one of the largest and strongest teeth in your upper jaw, is usually the culprit because of its proximity to the maxillary sinus. In the maxillary sinus, mucus must move upward to drain from the sinus into the nose. When you're standing up, this sinus doesn't drain easily. That's why the maxillary sinus gets infected more frequently than the head's other air cavities.
An infected tooth is only one cause of sinus infections. Other sources include allergic reactions and chemical irritation. Sinus infections are usually treated with antibiotics, such as Amoxicillin and Augmentin. Decongestants and antihistamines can mitigate the congestion, runny nose and other symptoms.
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