Oral & Vision Health Blog

Dental Inflammation vs Infection: What You Need to Know

Taking care of your dental health is vital for your overall wellbeing. Visiting the dentist regularly will prevent dental problems. Let’s look specifically at dental inflammation and infection. These two terms are often used interchangeably. However, inflammation and infection are not actually the same thing.


Key Takeaways:

  • Both dental inflammation and infection can affect the teeth, gums, or other parts of the mouth.
  • Inflammation can be acute or chronic.
  • Dental inflammation may result in swelling, pain, bleeding, sensitivity, or bad breath.
  • Infection can lead to abscesses, thrush, gingivitis, tonsillitis, or hand, foot, and mouth disease.
  • Prioritize going to the dentist - ask how often you should go back for check-ups.



Now that you know there is a difference between dental inflammation and infection, we want to take it a step further and go over the various types of infection, and the symptoms associated with each condition.

What is dental inflammation?
It is a response of the body's immune system to injury or infection. Dental inflammation is a natural response that helps to protect the body from further damage. Inflammation can be acute or chronic and can affect the teeth, gums, or other parts of the mouth.

Acute inflammation is a rapid response to injury or infection, and it usually resolves within a few days. Chronic inflammation is a prolonged response that can last for months or even years.

Causes of dental inflammation:
Dental inflammation can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Trauma to the tooth or gum tissue
  • Allergic reactions to dental materials
  • Irritants such as tobacco, alcohol, or spicy foods

Symptoms of dental inflammation:

Dental inflammation can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Swelling and redness in the affected area
  • Pain or discomfort in the affected tooth or gum tissue
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • Bad breath

It is important to know that not all dental inflammation causes pain or discomfort. It is possible to have inflammation without any symptoms. So, it is essential to visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.


What is a dental infection?
This infection can affect the teeth, gums, or other parts of the mouth. Dental infection may be caused by bacteria that enter the mouth and penetrate the tooth's surface, causing damage to the tooth or surrounding tissue. 

Some common types of dental infections include:

  • Tooth abscess
    • A pocket of pus caused by a bacterial infection in the tooth or gums.
    • Caused by untreated tooth decay or trauma to the tooth.
    • Can lead to serious complications if left untreated, such as bone and tissue damage, tooth loss, or systemic infection.
  • Thrush:
    • A fungal infection caused by Candida yeast.
    • Typically produces lesions on the tongue, cheeks, tonsils, roof of the mouth, or gums.
    • Common in people with weakened immune systems or who take certain medications.
  • Gingivitis:
    • A mild form of gum disease
    • Caused by bacteria in dental plaque.
    • Symptoms include red, swollen, and bleeding gums.
  • Periodontitis:
    • A more severe form of gum disease
    • Occurs when gingivitis is left untreated.
    • Can cause damage to the soft tissue and bone that support teeth.
  • Tonsillitis:
    • Inflammation of the tonsils, which are located in the back of the throat.
    • Can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection.
    • Symptoms include sore throat, difficulty swallowing, and swollen tonsils.
  • Hand, foot, and mouth disease:
    • A viral infection commonly affecting young children.
    • Caused by the coxsackievirus.
    • Symptoms include fever, sore throat, and blisters on the hands, feet, and mouth.
Symptoms of a dental infection:

Dental infections can cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Pain in the affected tooth or gum tissue
  • Swelling and redness in the affected area
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • A bad taste or odor in the mouth
  • Difficulty opening the mouth or swallowing.
  • Fever and chills (in severe cases)

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to visit your dentist as soon as possible to receive treatment.


Importance of visiting the dentist

If you believe you have dental inflammation or a dental infection, it is essential to visit your dentist as soon as possible. Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums and may order X-rays or other tests to determine the cause of your symptoms.


Treating an inflammation or infection early can help prevent further damage to your teeth and gums and may prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body.


Your dentist may recommend a variety of treatments depending on the severity of your condition, including:

  • Antibiotics to treat the infection.
  • Root canal therapy to remove infected tissue from inside the tooth.
  • Extraction
  • Periodontal therapy to treat gum disease.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication to reduce inflammation and relieve pain.

In some cases, your dentist may refer you to a specialist, such as an endodontist (focuses on dental pulp) or a periodontist (for chronic inflammation), to provide further treatment.


Preventing dental inflammation and infection

Like all areas of health, prevention is key to maintaining good oral health. Some helpful tips for preventing dental inflammation and infection include:

  • Brushing your teeth - at least twice a day
  • Flossing daily - to remove plaque and food particles from between your teeth.
  • Using an antiseptic mouthwash - to kill bacteria in your mouth.
  • Eating a healthy diet – keep the sugar and processed foods to a minimum.
  • Avoiding tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption
  • Visiting your dentist regularly - for checkups and cleanings (at regular intervals recommended by your dentist)

Dental inflammation and infection are two common dental conditions that can cause discomfort and lead to further oral health problems if left untreated. While they share some symptoms, they are caused by several factors and require different treatments. It is essential to visit your dentist regularly and seek treatment if you experience any symptoms of dental infection or inflammation. Being diligent in taking care of your teeth and gums can prevent these conditions. It’s all about maintaining good oral health for the rest of your life.

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