Why Don't Antibiotics Cure My Tooth Infection?

February 9th is "Toothache Day" according to the holiday app on my phone. To answer the title question, we need to first discuss the underlying cause of tooth infections. You see, problems in your mouth start out small. Even small problems can often be found at your dental check up. But if you don’t keep to a regular schedule of dental appointments or put off having the small problem fixed, the problem gets bigger and bigger until it finally gets so big that it forces you to notice it, often in the form of a toothache

Toothaches result from abscesses, and abscesses are localized infections. Now, you’re probably thinking, “No big deal. In this day and age, I can just take an antibiotic and that infection will go away.”  The reality is that an antibiotic is not a cure. It only treats the symptoms of your tooth infection.

A tooth abscesses because bacteria from your mouth are able to reach the tooth’s dental pulp where the tooth’s nerve and blood vessels are located. The infected dental pulp starts to die. As the pulp dies, it produces gases which press on your tooth’s nerve, causing pain.

An antibiotic helps your body’s immune system reduce the number of bacteria and thus the pressure on the nerve. Your pain may lessen or go away, but the infection is still there unless you also fix what’s allowing the bacteria to get in.  And the only way to fix it is to have a root canal or to remove your tooth.

Infection is serious. It spreads via the path of least resistance. Sometimes it creates a pimple-like sore on your gum that swells, “pops”, and deflates in cycles. Other times it causes facial swelling which can affect your eye or your throat. If the infection becomes system-wide, you may require hospitalization to contain it. And, yes, people have died because of an infected tooth. It’s nothing to fool with.

It’s human nature to think that if it doesn’t hurt, there must be nothing wrong. Sadly, waiting for your mouth to hurt, often sentences you to an agonizing choice: spend lots of money to do involved treatment or lose your tooth. You can learn more about Tooth Pain by clicking on the link in this sentence. It will take you to the Dear Doctor section of my website. 

If you have a toothache, we will do our best to get you in to evaluate the area as soon as possible. Call 440-960-1940 to arrange a time. Remember, the earlier in the day you call, the more likely we can work you in that same day or the next day.