I went to the dentist and was told that my tooth is infected. I didn’t get the impression it was an emergency. I am wondering if taking the antibiotic will clear it up so I don’t have to get work done on the tooth?
– Jerry in Louisiana
No, an antibiotic alone will not take care of the problem. And if that is the only thing you do, you could end up with a pretty serious dental emergency on your hands.
The antibiotic that is given when your tooth is infected helps to control the bacteria, it doesn’t kill them. Then, the body produces the antibodies needed to combat the infection.
When the dentist tells you that you have a tooth infection, the typical treatment is a root canal together with an antibiotic. In some cases a tooth extraction is necessary if the tooth is not salvageable. But when the tooth gets infected, it doesn’t have anywhere else to go since swelling cannot take place. The pulp inside the tooth dies and the bacteria multiply. Then, the infection will spread into the bone and even other parts of the body if this situation is not remedied.
Even if your tooth begins to feel better after taking the antibiotics, you are not in the clear. The infection cannot be addressed since it has originated inside the tooth.
Another factor that is worrisome if you only take antibiotics and do not have the tooth treated, is that you are actually helping the bacteria to become resistant to the medication. So when the infection resurfaces (because it will if it is not treated properly) it will be more difficult to beat. Sadly, we have seen patients that continually put off taking care of the tooth that the infection spreads into the bone and jaw infections are very dangerous. In other cases, the bacteria move the throat, cause swelling, and then can inhibit breathing. Still other times, the infections spreads to the brain.
Word to the wise, don’t ignore a tooth infection. Do yourself a favor, listen to your dentist and get the tooth taken care of in conjunction with the antibiotic.
This post is sponsored by York PA dentist Donald H. Currie, DMD