What Are the Signs of a Dental Infection Emergency?

When you think about a dental emergency, what comes to mind might be a knocked-out tooth or a broken crown, but there’s another urgent dental issue that often flies under the radar: dental infections. An infection in your mouth may not seem as dramatic as some dental scenarios, but it can silently cause havoc and require immediate attention.

Let’s unpack what you need to know about dental infection emergencies, how you can spot them, and why they should have you speed-dialing your dental professional pronto.

Understanding Dental Infections

Dental infections, also known as tooth abscesses, occur when bacteria gain access to the deeper structures of the tooth and surrounding tissue. This typically follows cavity progression, gum disease, or trauma. A dental infection might settle in the tip of the tooth root, in the gums, or the oral tissues and can occur after dental procedures (odontogenic infection).

Now, why should a little oral infection warrant an emergency? Our mouth is a gateway to the rest of our body, and an infection here can have systemic repercussions. It doesn’t just upset your weekend plans; if left unaddressed, it might lead to serious, even life-threatening conditions.

Spotting the Red Flags of Dental Emergencies

Recognizing the signs of a dental infection emergency can be a game-changer; it can mean the difference between a simple course of antibiotics and a hospital stay. Here are the clear red flags you should be on the lookout for:

Severe, Persistent Toothache

A toothache that won’t quit is often the first red flag of a dental infection. This pain can be sharp, throbbing, or it could just be a persistent discomfort that refuses to budge. If you’re in the area and you’ve got a toothache that feels like it’s taken a lease on your life, finding a dentist near Brampton can provide you with quick access to professional care and the relief you need.

Swelling in the Face or Cheeks

If you’ve noticed swelling in your cheeks or face, especially if it’s concentrated around a tooth or the jawline, you might be looking at an infection. Swelling can also be a sign that the infection is spreading, which makes it imperative to seek dental help without delay.


Running a fever is our body’s signal that it’s fighting an infection. If you’re experiencing a fever in conjunction with other symptoms on this list, your immune system may be trying to combat a dental infection.

Sensitivity to Hot and Cold

Freaking out every time you indulge in ice cream or sip a hot beverage? Sensitivity to temperature can be an indication that an infection has made itself at home in your tooth or gum.

Difficulty Breathing or Swallowing

This is a serious symptom and one that should prompt an immediate trip to the ER. Difficulty breathing or swallowing can signal that the infection is spreading to other parts of your body, potentially blocking airways and posing a significant threat to your health.

Actions to Take During a Dental Infection Emergency

So, what should you do if you’re facing a dental infection emergency? Take a proactive approach with the following steps:

Don’t Delay, Call Your Dentist

Your first course of action should be to call your dentist. Many dental practices are equipped to handle emergencies, so they can often accommodate you on the same day or direct you to an emergency contact if it’s after hours.

Rinsing With Saltwater

A saltwater rinse can be a temporary measure to manage pain and limit bacterial growth. Mix half a teaspoon of table salt with 8 ounces of warm water and rinse your mouth thoroughly.

Over-the-Counter Medication

While waiting for your dental appointment, you may take over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen to alleviate discomfort. Just make sure to follow the instructions and don’t exceed the recommended dosage.

Avoid Certain Foods and Drinks

Steer clear of overly hot or cold foods and drinks to minimize tooth sensitivity. It’s also wise to avoid chewing on the side of your mouth where the infection is present.

Preventing Dental Infection Emergencies

Prevention is better than cure, and this holds true for dental health as well. Here’s how you can keep those dental infection emergencies at bay:

  • Keep up with regular dental check-ups and cleanings.
  • Brush twice a day and floss daily.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or after an illness.
  • Maintain a healthy diet that’s low in sugar and acid.
  • Wear a mouthguard to prevent injury if you play sports.
  • Don’t ignore minor dental issues. Early treatment can prevent them from escalating into emergencies.

When to Seek Help from Dental Professionals

Despite our best efforts, sometimes dental infections happen, and when they do, knowing where to get help is crucial. For those living in or near the area, clinics like 905 Dental offer services that can address dental emergencies promptly. Such clinics understand the urgency and often have protocols in place to handle unexpected dental crises.

Wrapping Up

Dental infection emergencies demand swift action. Be proactive: spot early warnings, adhere to oral hygiene, and seek prompt, professional care to safeguard your health. Don’t dismiss dental discomfort; it’s a call to action for your well-being. With vigilance and the right care, you can tackle these issues effectively, keeping your precious smile intact. When in doubt, it’s always wise to consult with your dentist—your smile’s best defense.