This is the million-dollar question that I am asked almost weekly by patients coming in with pain and infections of their teeth. Once bacteria have infected a tooth it causes a dental cyst or abscess, which is pus buildup in the bone around the tooth (sometimes visible on your gums and may look like a pimple). This abscess can expand into the jaw and refer pain to the adjacent teeth, gums, bone and even the sinus cavities. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the surrounding muscles and tissues and cause facial cellulitis-an infection within the skin and soft tissues-this is what usually intensifies the swelling and pain one feels.
The answer to that million-dollar question is no. You must get rid of the source of infection and this can be done with either root canal treatment, where the infection will be drained through the tooth’s root or an extraction. Dentists prescribe antibiotics to prevent the further spread of infection to the surrounding tissues, as it can lead to much greater problems. Untreated infection may reach the blood stream, causing septicemia which could reach the heart or brain, leading to an unwanted hospital visit and possible death. Unfortunately, several people do die each year from dental infections that could have been prevented or treated, had they seen a dentist and followed recommendation.
In conclusion, we do not routinely prescribe antibiotics for dental infection in the early stages, as dental treatments can usually eliminate the infection. I encourage everyone to see their dentist at least twice a year for preventative care and proper diagnosis to avoid becoming a statistic. Dentistry is not expensive, neglect is.
I look forward to seeing you at your next dental visit!
-Dr. Steve Tatevossian
King House Dental Group