Can a Problem Tooth Cause Other Problems?

A woman is sitting at a table with a cup of coffee.

Your teeth play a crucial role in your overall health and well-being. While a simple toothache might seem like a minor inconvenience, the truth is that a problem tooth can lead to a range of concerns if left untreated.

Do You Have a Problem Tooth?

Symptoms of a dental concern with a tooth can vary. Persistent toothache, often throbbing or sharp, and persistent bad breath or a foul taste may indicate decay or infection. Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures, as well as pain when biting down, could suggest a cracked tooth or cavity. Swollen and tender gums around a specific tooth might signify gum disease or an abscessed tooth. Tooth discolouration, like dark spots or grayness, may hint at enamel erosion or internal damage.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should visit your dentist for a diagnosis and treatment, to prevent your condition from worsening. Untreated cavities and other tooth concerns won’t resolve on their own, and will lead to more significant oral health issues. Poor oral health has also been found to have links with medical conditions and general health, too.

A man with a toothache holding his hand.

Oral Health Issues

If left untreated, even a minor cavity or fissure can cause bigger issues. In addition, even if you aren’t noticing significant pain at the time, the pain will increase and won’t be relieved until the tooth is treated.

Tooth Infections

A cavity or damaged tooth is an entry point for bacteria to reach the inner layers of your tooth. This can lead to a tooth infection in the dental pulp, or tissues, in the root canals. Tooth infections can cause severe pain and discomfort.

If left untreated, tooth infections can spread to the surrounding tissues, causing more extensive damage. In severe cases, these infections can even reach the bloodstream, potentially leading to life-threatening conditions such as sepsis. It will also lead to tooth loss.

Treatment for dental infections typically involve root canal procedures, where the infected pulp is removed and the tooth’s canals are disinfected. Usually antibiotics are also prescribed and a dental crown used to restore the tooth.

Gum Disease

A bad tooth can also contribute to gum disease, a condition that affects the soft tissues surrounding your teeth. When bacteria from a decaying tooth or cavity enter the gums, it can lead to the development of gingivitis, the initial stage of gum disease. Symptoms include red, swollen, bleeding gums and bad breath. As the gum disease progresses, gum recession starts to occur.

If not addressed, gingivitis can progress and worsen, becoming periodontitis, a more severe and irreversible form of gum disease. This advanced stage can result in abscesses, loss of gum and bone tissues, and even tooth loss.

Treating gum disease typically involves professional dental cleanings to remove plaque and tartar buildup, as well as more advanced procedures like scaling and root planing, as well as antibiotics.

Tooth Loss

A missing tooth can lead to several negative consequences for oral health. It can cause shifting of adjacent teeth, leading to misalignment. This misalignment can result in bite issues, jaw pain, and difficulties in chewing. Additionally, it may contribute to gum problems and an increased risk of tooth decay, creating a cycle of issues.

A close up of an old man with teeth missing.

General Health Impacts That May Stem From Poor Dental Health

The consequences of a bad tooth extend beyond oral health and can have a significant impact on your general well-being. Research shows there are some ways in which dental issues may affect your overall health.

Cardiovascular Disease

Poor oral health may lead to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions, due to oral infections becoming systemic.


People with diabetes are at higher risk of gum disease, while gum disease can make it harder to control blood sugar levels, making it harder for persons with diabetes to manage their condition.

Respiratory Infections

Bacteria from oral infections can be aspirated into the lungs, increasing the risk of respiratory infection.

Chronic Kidney Disease

Dental issues can exacerbate kidney disease as oral infections and inflammation can lead to systemic inflammation and bacteria in the bloodstream which adds to the strain on the kidneys.

Cognitive Decline

Some studies have suggested a potential connection between poor oral health and cognitive decline in older adults and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sjogren's Syndrome

Sjogren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder, can severely impact oral health. It reduces saliva production, leading to dry mouth, increasing the risk of cavities, gum disease, and oral infections. Poor dental health can in turn aggravate the symptoms of Sjögren’s Syndrome, worsening the condition.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Dental issues can worsen rheumatoid arthritis, as oral inflammation may trigger systemic inflammation, intensifying joint pain and symptoms.

Digestive Issues

Chewing problems due to tooth pain or tooth loss can lead to digestive issues, as proper chewing is essential for efficient digestion.

A woman is holding up an x - ray of her teeth.

How to Treat a Bad Tooth and Prevent Future Issues from Poor Oral Health

If you suspect you have a problem tooth, don’t delay seeking professional dental care. Dentists can diagnose the problem and recommend appropriate treatment, whether it’s a filling, root canal, or extraction. Earlier diagnosis and treatment usually means treatment is easier and more successful. This is why it is also good to keep up with your regular dental checkups, since your dentist can often discover an issue before you notice symptoms.

It is easier to prevent dental problems than treat them, and poor dental hygiene is a critical factor in developing oral health issues. Brush your teeth and gums regularly and floss daily. Maintaining a healthy diet, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and other positive lifestyle changes will help you maintain healthy teeth, too. Seeing your dentist regularly is another key component to prevent issues; be sure to follow any recommendations, such as using fluoride products or mouthguards.

A problem tooth is not just an inconvenience or cosmetic concern; it can lead to a range of health issues if left untreated. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums through proper oral hygiene is an important part of self care; an important part of that is having regular professional cleanings and checkups by a dentist.

At Century Stone Dental, we offer family dentistry services, including preventive care like professional cleanings and fluoride, and fillings and other treatments if an issue does arise.

Dr Christopher Sims
Latest posts by Dr Christopher Sims (see all)

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