Can tooth infections actually be dangerous?

I heard something today that really freaked me out, so I am asking an expert if it is true. I am pretty sure I have an infection in one of my teeth, and one of my friends told me today that it could actually be dangerous. Is that true?

I broke one of the teeth in my upper jaw last week. I don’t have the money to visit a dentist right now, but I think I’m going to have to do something. The pain is getting steadily worse. The swelling is now noticeable, and the pain is radiating all over my face, and down my neck. I was going to take some antibiotics that I had left over from a strep infection, but they have expired. What should I do? Do I have to visit a dentist, or can I just go down to the clinic and get an antibiotic?

Marley in Chica

Dear Marley,

Your friend is right. This situation is dangerous. An untreated infection in your tooth can spread to your brain. You must get this addressed as soon as possible.

You must either have the tooth repaired (with a root canal treatment and porcelain crown), or have it extracted. If you do not treat the tooth with a root canal treatment (or removal), you will not remove the source of the infection, and taking oral antibiotics will only make the bacteria that remains resistant to treatment. For this reason, you really should see a dentist to have this looked at. An emergency room doctor could remove the tooth, but it would be best to try and salvage the tooth.

Post courtesy of Dr. Hadgis, Grosse Pointe Woods cosmetic dentist.

Is my son too young to have all his teeth pulled?

What are the consequences of having all your teeth pulled in your late teens? My youngest son is not yet 20, but he has been a drug addict for years. He is currently clean, and working hard to stay that way, but all the years of abuse have taken a heavy toll and his health in almost every regard. One of my main concerns right now is his teeth.

They are simply ruined. He is only able to chew with the teeth at the front of his mouth, and even that causes him a lot of pain. Many of the teeth are half rotted out, and several are missing. Almost none of them look healthy enough to save.

I took him to see a dentist as part of a free health care promo at the clinic where he gets treatment for the drugs, and he said that we should just pull all his teeth and fit him for dentures. They set up an appointment in 3 months for him to go in and get the whole thing done in one afternoon. My son seems resigned to this, but I don’t think it sounds totally right.

Isn’t that a lot to have done in one afternoon? And won’t he be too sore for them to fit dentures? I took my Grandpa in once, years ago, for a fitting, and they put all this goop on his gums. Won’t that get in the open sockets and cause him pain, and risk infection? This all seems really like he is being shuffled through as quickly as possible.

Are they any other options?


Lucy in Flagstaff

Dear Lucy,

This is not a good treatment plan. If your son has all his teeth removed before he is even 20, he will be a dental cripple by the time he turns 4o. The jaw bone deteriorates at the site of a lost tooth, so imagine what happens when ALL the teeth are gone. In time, the bones of the jaws become so thin and fragile that dentures are not an option.

Get a second opinion. If even some of your son’s teeth can be saved, they can be used to anchor dentures, and will slow the bone loss in his jaw. Search the internet for “affordable dental implants” or “mini dental implants”. If none of the teeth can truly be saved, he better start saving for dental implants. Even a few will dramatically slow the bone deterioration that is so necessary to avoid.

Grosse Pointe Woods cosmetic dentist Dr. Hadgis’ office sponsored this blog post.