Skip to main content

Can toothaches kill?

A sore tooth is more than just an annoying pain. Left untreated, toothaches can lead to all sorts of nasty problems, including sepsis.

Sepsis is part of your body’s immune response to fighting infection. Unfortunately, it’s so aggressive and toxic that it can easily be life threatening. Each year nearly 270,000 people die from sepsis, according to the National Institutes of Health. It’s also a costly condition  Sepsis is ranked as the most expensive in-patient cost in hospitals, according to the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project.

How can a toothache cause sepsis?

The pain of a toothache is caused by infection. It’s possible for the bacteria causing the infection in your tooth to enter your bloodstream through the pulp of your tooth. From there, you can develop a dental abscess, or pocket of pus. An abscess usually causes a lot of pain, swelling, a bad taste in your mouth, fever and even sepsis.

If you have a toothache and visit your dentist, he or she can determine the cause of the problem, treat it and prescribe antibiotics to keep the infection from spreading. You may need a filling, braces, a crown, a root canal or even a tooth extraction, depending on how serious the infection is. These options may not sound appealing, but they’re much easier to manage than sepsis!

Prevention is easy

If you have a toothache, the best way to handle it is to visit your dentist right away. He or she can identify what’s causing the pain and determine the best course of treatment. You can also take the following steps to help you avoid toothaches completely.

  • Visit your dentist regularly for cleanings. If you have health conditions that put you at risk for dental issue, consider visiting the dentist more frequently.
  • Floss and brush after meals, including after lunch if possible.
  • Use a mouthguard if you play sports. A damaged tooth can more easily get infected.
  • Don’t use your teeth as impromptu tools, like bottle openers or scissors. They’re tough, but they can break.

Remember, if something feels “wrong” or hurts, let your dentist or dental hygienist know.

Last updated September 8, 2021

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.