Properly caring your teeth and gums is important for your oral health and can help lower the risk of getting a mouth infection. Bacteria and viruses can cause infections in your mouth and while they can be common, it’s important to know the symptoms of a mouth infection to avoid any serious health conditions. Fortunately, most oral infections are not contagious since bacteria is natural in everyone’s mouth.
In fact, 9 out of 10 diseases can cause symptoms to appear in your mouth, so it’s good to know what to look for. Your dentist plays a crucial part in maintaining your overall health, so if you experience any of these symptoms, it’s best to make an appointment right away.
Before we get into what the symptoms of a mouth infection are, it’s beneficial to know some different types of mouth infections. The symptoms can vary, depending on the severity of the infection.
6 Types of Mouth Infections
Mouth infections come in a wide variety and range from minor to potentially life threatening. Some mouth infections are avoidable by practicing good oral hygiene and last only a few days. Other infections are more severe and can last much longer, requiring medicine or surgery. There are many different types of mouth infections, but these are some of the most common that are seen in both adults and children:
1. Dental Caries is the medical term for cavities, or tooth decay. This happens when bacteria from residual sugars and carbohydrates in the mouth produce acid that eats away at a tooth’s enamel and it’s underlying layer, called dentin. Caries caught in the early stages can be reversed, although if not treated quickly, the decay can eat away at the tooth down to the root.
2. Gingivitis is a gum disease that occurs when plaque builds up on the teeth and causes inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue. Plaque is a naturally occurring bacteria-filled film that sticks to the teeth and produces toxins that irritates the gums. Your gums can become red, puffy, and bleed and if not treated, can become periodontitis.
3. Periodontitis is a serious gum disease that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. Plaque buildup causes slow deterioration and can cause loss of teeth if not treated. There are three main types of periodontitis – chronic, aggressive, and necrotizing. When left untreated, periodontitis can enter your bloodstream and affect other parts of your body.
4. Thrush is a condition that occurs when yeast-shaped fungus overgrows on the tongue and in the mouth. While anyone can get thrush, it’s most common in infants and older adults – people with generally weakened immune systems. This fungus is usually kept under control by the bacteria in your mouth, but certain illnesses and medications can disrupt the balance in your body.
5. Canker Sores are small, shallow lesions that develop on your gums or on the soft tissue in your mouth. Unlike cold sores, canker sores are not contagious and do not appear on the surface of your lips. Caused by acidic or spicy foods, most canker sores go away on their own in a week or two. However, if they worsen, they can leave scarring.
6. An Abscessed Tooth is a pocket of pus that can form in different parts of the tooth due to a bacterial infection. This is caused by bacteria entering the teeth and gums through a cavity or existing gum disease. It can also be caused by a foreign object, such as as popcorn kernel, getting embedded into your gums. If left untreated, the infection can cause the pain to radiate to your jaw bone, neck, or ear. It the rarest of cases, it has been known to cause sepsis.
Symptoms of a Mouth Infection
Although the treatment and types of infections are all very different, they are known to cause the same symptoms. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to your dentist right away to avoid complications or an increased risk of serious health conditions.
Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- Severe, throbbing toothache
- Pain in your neck, jaw bone, or inner ear
- Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
- Foul-smelling breath
- Bitter taste in your mouth
- Swelling in the face and/or cheek
- Sensitivity when chewing or biting
- Gums that are red or puffy
- Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
This is not a comprehensive list of all symptoms related to mouth infections, but these are the most common. When brushing and flossing, be aware of any discoloration or changes in your mouth that could be a sign of a possible infection.
Ways to Prevent a Mouth Infection
Many of these mouth infections are very common. In fact, 1 out of 3 Canadians have a need for dental work due to mouth infections, despite having a significant decrease in dental decay over the last 40 years.
There are easy ways to prevent mouth infections and to keep your mouth healthy. By washing your hands frequently, you reduce the risk of getting foreign bacteria in your mouth that can cause infections, or worsen existing conditions. The importance of brushing and flossing twice a day cannot go unmentioned. Cleaning your teeth using proper brushing techniques is crucial to removing the plaque off your teeth and having a health mouth.
Other ways to prevent mouth infections include not using tobacco products, eating health snacks and having a nutritious diet, and of course visiting your dentist for regular bi-annual cleanings and checkups.
Your dentist will be able to check your mouth using scanners and x-rays to determine any dental issues you may be experiencing, as well as identify any issues you have with your gums or teeth. 48% of Canadians who have not seen a dentist in the last year suffer from gum disease. Seeing a dentist can help existing mouth infections from worsening and prevent infections from happening.