A tooth infection can be extremely dangerous if left untreated. Tooth infections are a serious health problem that can lead to a number of complications, including death. But how long does it take for a tooth infection to spread and potentially become life-threatening? This article will explore how dental infections develop, how fast they can spread, How Long Until A Tooth Infection Kills You, the symptoms to watch for, and when you need emergency care.

What Causes A Tooth Infection?

A tooth infection, also known as a dental abscess, occurs when bacteria invade the pulp inside your tooth. This is the inner layer that contains the nerve and blood vessels.

Bacteria can get inside your tooth through:

  • Tooth decay and cavities
  • Cracks or chips in the tooth
  • Previous dental procedures

Once inside, the bacteria multiply rapidly, infecting the pulp. This causes inflammation and pus to build up inside the tooth, forming an abscess.

The infection can spread from the tooth root at the tip and into the supporting bone structure of your jaw.

Symptoms of a Tooth Infection

ToothachePersistent, throbbing pain in the affected tooth.
SwellingSwelling of the face, jaw, or neck near the infected tooth.
FeverElevated body temperature, indicating infection.
Bad Taste or OdorFoul taste or smell in the mouth due to pus or bacteria.
Gum Redness and SwellingInflammation of the gums surrounding the infected tooth.
Pus DrainageRelease of yellow or white pus from the tooth or gums.
Difficulty EatingDiscomfort or pain when biting or chewing.
General MalaiseFeeling unwell, fatigued, or generally sick.
HeadacheHeadaches due to the spread of infection.
Difficulty SwallowingDifficulty swallowing due to throat swelling.

How Quickly Does A Tooth Infection Spread?

A tooth abscess can develop rapidly, over days or weeks. But how long does it take for the infection to spread further and become dangerous?

Once an abscess forms, the infection can spread to other areas in as little as a few days if left untreated.

It may take 2 weeks to a month for the dental infection to spread from the tooth into the jawbone and surrounding tissue.

As the infection spreads, your face may start to swell up around the affected tooth. The swelling is the body’s inflammatory response to the infection.

Can A Tooth Infection Spread To The Brain Or Other Areas?

Yes, if an infected tooth is left untreated, the infection can eventually spread from the tooth to the brain or other parts of the body.

However, this worst-case scenario can take weeks or even months to occur.

The infection typically spreads locally at first. It moves into the bone around the tooth and can then expand into the fascial spaces of the jaws and neck.

If treatment is still delayed, the infection can spread further through the bloodstream. This can potentially lead to more serious and even life-threatening conditions such as:

  • Brain abscess
  • Sepsis
  • Bone infection (osteomyelitis)
  • Heart infection (endocarditis)

So in rare cases, a tooth infection that reaches the bloodstream can spread throughout the body if not treated promptly.

How Long Until A Tooth Infection Kills You
How Long Until A Tooth Infection Kills You

What Are The Symptoms Of A Spreading Tooth Infection?

With prompt treatment, most dental infections are resolved quickly without spreading or complications.

But it’s crucial to watch for these key symptoms that indicate a tooth infection is advancing and needs urgent care:

  • Severe, throbbing toothache that persists and worsens over days
  • Tooth becomes extremely sensitive to hot and cold temperatures
  • Swelling in the gums around the infected tooth, gradually expanding
  • Swelling and tenderness in the jaw, neck, or face on the side with the infected tooth
  • Fever and chills
  • Fatigue and generally feeling unwell
  • Pus draining from the infected tooth
  • Bad breath or foul taste in your mouth

If you experience difficulty swallowing or breathing, seek emergency care immediately, as the infection may be obstructing your airway.

Let your dentist know right away if painkillers and antibiotics do not help relieve an infected tooth. The infection may have spread into the jawbone or tissue and could require professional drainage or a root canal.

A Close Look At Wisdom Teeth

How Long Until A Tooth Infection Can Kill You?

It is possible for an untreated severe tooth infection to be fatal. However, death is very rare with modern medical care.

Here’s a general timeline of how long it can take for a tooth infection to potentially become life-threatening if not treated:

  • 1-2 weeks: The local infection is established in the tooth and root. You have a severe toothache with swelling and pus.
  • 2-3 weeks: The infection spreads into jawbone, tissue, or fascial spaces in the mouth and neck. The face becomes very swollen. At this stage, emergency dental care is needed to prevent further spread.
  • 3 weeks to several months: The infection could enter the bloodstream and spread to other areas of the body, leading to dangerous conditions like sepsis. This is now a medical emergency requiring hospitalization.
  • 2 months or longer: In rare cases, the widespread infection leads to organ failure, brain damage, and eventually death. But most infections will be resolved long before reaching this point.

So in reality, by the time an infection spreads into the bloodstream, urgent medical intervention at a hospital should prevent fatal outcomes.

Preventing Tooth Infections And Recognizing Spread

The key is to prevent tooth infections in the first place through good regular dental care. And if an infection does occur, get treatment right away before it has a chance to spread.

See your dentist quickly if you notice the signs of an infected tooth or abscess. If the infection does not clear up promptly with medication, further dental treatment will likely be needed to drain the pus and disinfect the tooth. Extracting the tooth may be required as a last resort. But this will stop the infection in its tracks before it can spread dangerously.

How Long Until A Tooth Infection Kills You
How Long Until A Tooth Infection Kills You

Know The Signs To Watch For

Be alert for any of the symptoms listed above that suggest a tooth infection is advancing beyond the tooth into surrounding tissue. Facial swelling in particular indicates a spreading infection that needs emergency dental care.

Seek medical attention immediately if you have a tooth infection along with symptoms like high fever, breathing difficulty, or confusion as the infection may have reached the bloodstream. This rare worst-case scenario can become life-threatening very quickly.

Consequences of Untreated Tooth Infection

Abscess FormationFormation of a pus-filled pocket around the infected tooth.
Spread of InfectionInfection can spread to the jawbone or other parts of the body.
Bone DamageTooth infection can lead to jawbone deterioration.
Blood Infection (Sepsis)Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream, causing sepsis.
Systemic Health IssuesPotential links to heart problems and other systemic health issues.
Risk of Tooth LossThe infected tooth may need to be extracted.
Chronic Pain and DiscomfortOngoing pain and discomfort without treatment.
Emergency Dental ProceduresMay require immediate dental surgery or extraction.
Life-Threatening ComplicationsIn rare cases, severe infections can be life-threatening.


  • A tooth infection can spread through the root into jaw and tissue within 2 weeks to a month if untreated.
  • It can eventually enter the bloodstream and travel to other body areas within weeks or months in extremely severe cases.
  • Death from an infected tooth is very uncommon with medical care. But see a dentist right away if you have symptoms.
  • Practicing good dental hygiene and getting prompt treatment can protect against tooth infections spreading.