How Does An Infected Tooth Cause Bone Loss?

How Does An Infected Tooth Cause Bone Loss?

Team Endodontics

Did you know that a tooth can become infected? You probably already know that an infection of any kind is caused by bacteria, and the same is true for an infected tooth. A tooth infection is something that should be addressed as soon as possible because without treatment the infection will spread and may even lead to bone loss of the jaw and eventually loss of the tooth. 

How does a tooth get infected? And why does that lead to bone loss in the jaw? Here’s what you need to know about how these conditions are related. 

What is a Tooth Infection?

On the inside of each tooth is a chamber called the root canal that extends from the crown of the tooth down into the root. Inside the root canal is the dental pulp, soft tissue containing blood vessels and nerves. If bacteria makes its way into the root canal it can invade the dental pulp, resulting in an infection. A tooth infection can be painful and eventually lead to loss of the tooth. 

How Does a Tooth Become Infected?

Bacteria can get into the root canal and infect the dental pulp through a few different avenues: 

  • Deep cavity. When plaque bacteria eats away at the tooth enamel it causes a hole in the tooth called a cavity. If a cavity is deep enough to reach the soft portion of the tooth under the enamel, the dentin, it can make its way into the root canal and infect the pulp. 
  • Significant decay. Widespread decay over a large portion of a tooth can also allow bacteria to reach the root canal and infect the tooth. 
  • Damage to the root. In some cases bacteria enters the root canal through a weak spot in the root of the tooth. The root may be damaged in some way that allows bacteria to get through to the dental pulp. 
  • Crack or chip. A crack or a chip in a tooth is another potential avenue where bacteria can invade the root canal. 

How Can a Tooth Infection Cause Bone Loss in the Jaw? 

There are a few different reasons that a tooth infection may lead to bone loss in the jaw: 

  • Swelling. An infected tooth may swell or cause the gum tissue around it to swell. This swelling can cause damage to the bone tissue around the tooth. 
  • Inflammation. Inflammation from an infected tooth releases toxins that trigger the immune system to attack the bone tissue and cause it to resorb, or dissolve. 
  • Loss of teeth. When a tooth falls out or is extracted because of a severe, untreatable infection, it leaves an empty space in the jaw that leads to bone loss. 

How is an Infected Tooth Treated?

The most common treatment for an infected tooth is root canal treatment. This procedure involves removal of the dental pulp and all of the infected tissue. The root canal is then filled with a rubbery replacement material that is resistant to infection. In most cases a crown is placed over the remaining tooth material to protect the natural root that provides support. 

What Can Be Done To Recoup Lost Bone Tissue?

If there is bone loss in the jaw due to the infected tooth, there are ways to regenerate the lost tissue. A procedure called bone grafting can stimulate regrowth of the bone tissue in the jaw that was lost due to a tooth infection. A bone fragment is surgically placed under the gum tissue on top of the existing bone, which encourages regeneration of the natural bone tissue. 

In cases where the tooth infection is so severe that the tooth needs to be extracted, replacing the tooth with a dental implant can prevent further bone loss and potentially regenerate some of the lost bone tissue. Depending on the extent of the bone loss, a bone graft may be needed before an implant can be placed. 

Where Should I Go For Treatment For a Tooth Infection?

An endodontist specializes in treating conditions affecting the dental pulp inside the teeth. Root canal therapy is one of the most common procedures to treat an existing tooth infection and prevent it from recurring. Prompt treatment of a tooth infection can prevent bone loss and keep the support structures for the teeth strong and healthy. 

Contact us today to learn more and schedule an appointment.