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How to Know if You Have an Infected Tooth

infected toothWe all want our teeth to be healthy, strong, and pain-free. However, when you have an aching or painful tooth, it can be challenging to focus on anything else. Quickly identifying the signs of tooth infection can help you avoid unnecessary pain or discomfort and may allow for more options to repair the tooth. Unfortunately, once a tooth is infected, the infection and damage do not just go away by themselves. Severe infections can spread throughout your body, so you need to see your dentist to correct the issue as soon as you can. If you are in need of emergency dental care we are here in the Indianapolis area.

Here are a few of the things that you should look for to identify an infected, or abscessed tooth.

Tooth Sensitivity to Temperatures – One of the first things that you may notice is that eating or drinking cold or hot foods and drinks may trigger sensitivity. Some patients find that one end of the temperature spectrum will trigger their tooth sensitivity, while hot or cold temperatures equally impact other people. One thing to consider with tooth sensitivity is the area where the tooth is sensitive. While an infected tooth may be sensitive, you can often identify the individual tooth or at least the general area where it occurs. If temperatures make all of your teeth sensitive, or an entire arch of your teeth, the issue may not be an infected tooth.

Sensitivity or Pain During Eating – Tooth infections generally become noticeable because the internal structure of the tooth, the pulp, has become irritated and inflamed. Because the pulp is held inside of the bone, once it swells to a certain point, it only increases the pressure within the tooth. The pain is caused by the pressure exerted on the nerves within the tooth. This means that sometimes in the earlier stages of tooth infection, the process of eating places just a little more pressure on the tooth and can trigger the pain as we chew.

Tender or Swollen Lymph Nodes – Once your body recognizes that there is an infection, it will begin to fight it, activating the lymph nodes. As your lymph nodes take on the infection, they can start to swell or become tender. The success your lymph nodes have on fighting infection can be witnessed in the size of the lymph node. Essentially, if the infection gets worse, expect that they will continue swelling with additional tenderness.

Severe and Persistent Neck and Jaw Pain – As the infection in the tooth continues to place more pressure on the nerve, the pain will start to become a dull ache that does not go away. It can be made worse by chewing at this stage, but the discomfort is always present. If the infection continues to worsen, and the internal pressure grows, the pain severity will increase. What was once a dull ache can quickly become excruciating pain that will not subside. This pain can also radiate into the jaw, neck, and ear. Unfortunately, many dental patients will only come into the office at this point because they can no longer bear to get through their regular daily routine.

Fever – Fever in our bodies is a sign that our immune system is under attack and fighting an infection. This rise in body temperature is the body’s way to try to turn the tables against the infection by literally raising the temperature. Unfortunately, the side effect of fighting an infection is that you just do not feel good. Fever due to a toothache is also a sign that the infection is spreading into the body and involving other systems.

healthy toothSwelling in the Face and Cheeks – Facial swelling is an additional sign of an infection that is spreading from the tooth. Swelling is another symptom that is related to fever in your body’s attempt to fight the infection. Swelling can typically start at the local area, but as the infection worsens, the swelling can spread from one side of your jaw and cheek to both sides.

Difficulty Breathing or Swallowing – First, if you are having difficulty breathing, it is crucial to seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms mean that your swelling is becoming so significant that your airway is beginning to close off. While swelling is a natural part of your body trying to fight infection, your body will continue to swell at the expense of your ability to breathe. Medical intervention is necessary at this point to make sure that you get the help you need to fight the infection, and so that you can continue to breathe.

Schedule an Appointment

The signs that you have a toothache should not be taken lightly because the infection will only get worse and spread. Instead, if you call Lockhart Dentistry today, we can help identify the cause of your discomfort and help you feel better sooner! Give us a call if you have any questions or concerns at (317) 849-9715.


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  • Gerald B.
    “Approximately 4:45 p.m., a crown came completely out. I immediately called Dr. Lockhart’s office to see if he was available. He was so 15 minutes later; I walked into his office. I was seen immediately; the tooth was prepped and recemented. Less than a half-hour after the tooth came out, it was back in, and I was on my way to the Pacer game. Great job!”
    Gerald B.
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    Jessica C.
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    “Everyone is professional and so friendly. They take the time to explain the procedures, and make you feel very comfortable in a very relaxed atmosphere. If you don’t like going to a dentist for whatever reason, I suggest you try Dr. Lockhart!”
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    “At the doctor’s recommendation, an old silver filling was replaced with enamel. This accomplished two things. It provided an opportunity to assess the health of the tooth-as it is a deep and old filling. And secondly it improved the visual of the mouth by having a filling material which blends with the tooth color. Though no further care is needed at this time, it is valuable to know what may be necessary going forward which eliminates the dreaded element of surprise in dental care. Dr. Lockhart and his staff create a comfortable, caring environment which puts the patient at ease while undergoing what might otherwise be an anxiety filled procedure. All aspects of the office visit were professional, efficient and most important of all – painless.”
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    “Above and beyond! Our son broke off a tooth on A Tuesday evening. Dr. Lockhart and his staff are not scheduled to be in the office on Wednesdays. We nevertheless called the emergency number he provided first thing Wednesday morning. Dr. Lockhart promptly returned our call and we made arrangements to meet at the office. Dr. Lockhart was very thorough with his examination. He and McKenzie took great care of our son and got him fixed up. Always the highest level of care and customer service. THANK YOU!”
    Heather B.
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    Routine 6 month cleaning and check. Have been a patient of Lockhart Dentistry since Doc came to Indianapolis. The entire staff is friendly and caring and works hard to make sure you are comfortable no matter what service is being provided.
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    "Great place, people are friendly and very nice. Dr. Lockhart always has an alternative or solution to my issues. I love Danielle! I always ask for her to do my cleaning. My teeth always feel extra clean."
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