Can Tooth Infections Cause a Sore Throat? 

In the realm of health and wellness, connections between seemingly unrelated issues continue to amaze us. Sore throats are a common ailment that can cause discomfort and hinder our daily activities. While viral and bacterial infections are often the culprits behind this irritation, there’s a lesser-known connection that might surprise you—the link between tooth infections and sore throats. In this blog, we’ll delve into the intriguing relationship between these seemingly unrelated issues and shed light on the question, “Can tooth infections cause a sore throat?”

The Connection Between The Two

When we think of tooth infections, we often imagine localized pain and discomfort in the mouth. However, the human body is a complex interconnected system, and issues in one area can sometimes manifest symptoms in unexpected places. Tooth infections and other oral health issues, particularly those involving the roots and surrounding tissues, can trigger a sore throat due to their proximity to vital structures like the throat, jaw, and sinuses.

woman looking at her tooth in a mirror

Understanding Tooth Infections 

Tooth infections typically stem from untreated cavities, cracked teeth, or gum diseases like periodontitis. As the infection progresses, bacteria can reach the tooth’s pulp, which contains nerves and blood vessels. From there, the infection can spread through the root canals and into the surrounding tissues, leading to a dental abscess—a pocket of pus caused by the body’s immune response to combat the infection.

Causes of a Tooth Infection

A tooth infection can occur from various causes, most notably originating from poor oral hygiene and other underlying factors. If you don’t brush your teeth regularly to remove food particles and other sugars, bacteria are allowed to flourish, and it may lead to plaque formation and infection. If you have impacted wisdom teeth that need to be removed, this can lead to a wisdom tooth infection that spreads bacteria to other parts of your mouth. Other causes of tooth infection include gum disease, cracked or fractured teeth, and as a result of systemic health conditions such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders.  

Signs of a Tooth Infection

Common symptoms of an infected tooth can include persistent and throbbing tooth or jaw pain, sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures, and swelling or tenderness partially from your gums. In some cases, you may develop a dental abscess. The infection can also cause bad breath due to the presence of bacteria. It’s also not uncommon for individuals to experience general malaise, fever, or swollen lymph nodes as the body’s immune system response kicks in. 

The Role of Inflammation

As the infection spreads, inflammation becomes a key player. As the body’s natural response to infection or injury, inflammation aims to isolate and neutralize the threat. In the case of a tooth infection, inflammation causes the affected tissues to become swollen, red, and painful. This inflammatory response can extend beyond the tooth, affecting nearby structures, including the throat.

The Throat’s Proximity 

The roots of certain teeth, especially those in the upper jaw, are closely situated to the maxillary sinus—a set of air-filled spaces connected to the nasal passages. This means an advanced tooth infection could spread into the sinus cavity, leading to sinusitis. Sinusitis symptoms often include a sore throat, as the infection and inflammation extend to the throat area. Moreover, the close proximity of the roots of the upper molars to the throat means that an infection in these teeth could potentially spread directly to the throat.

doctor and patient reviewing oral x-rays

The Path of Infection

When a tooth infection spreads to surrounding tissues, it can create pathways for bacteria to travel. These pathways might lead to the throat area, causing irritation and inflammation in the mucous membranes. The presence of bacteria in the throat can lead to throat pain, much like how bacterial or viral infections cause the same symptom. Additionally, the body’s immune response to the bacteria can exacerbate the soreness and discomfort.

Shared Nerve Pathways

Another interesting aspect is the shared nerve pathways between the oral and throat areas. The trigeminal nerve, one of the major cranial nerves, innervates the teeth and the throat. This means that pain signals originating from an infected tooth can also be perceived in the throat. The brain might interpret the signals as originating from the throat, leading to a sore throat sensation.

Compromised Immune System

An ongoing tooth infection can weaken the body’s immune system, making it more susceptible to other infections, including those causing sore throats. The immune response that the body mounts to fight off the tooth infection can divert resources away from preventing other infections, leaving the throat vulnerable to attacks. 

How Sore Throats Can Occur From Tooth Infections

While tooth infections might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you experience a sore throat, the evidence shows that there is indeed a link between the two. So, can tooth infections lead to a sore throat? The answer is a resounding yes.

As an untreated tooth infection progresses and spreads, it can cause inflammation, share nerve pathways, and compromise the immune system, all contributing to the development of a sore throat. If you’re experiencing a persistent sore throat, especially in conjunction with tooth pain, it’s crucial to consult both a dentist and a medical professional. Addressing the underlying tooth infection not only relieves discomfort in the mouth but can also prevent the potential spread of infection to other areas of the body, including the throat. As always, maintaining good oral hygiene and seeking prompt dental care for any signs of infection are essential for overall health and well-being.

doctor inspecting a child's mouth

Neighbors Can Help With Dental Emergencies

At Neighbors Emergency Center, our staff can help treat pain and swelling from a tooth infection if you are experiencing a dental emergency. We can also help treat a sore throat and other symptoms, no matter the time of day. We cannot perform emergency tooth extractions, tooth canals, or other dental work since we do not have a dentist on-site at any of our locations. However, if you need relief or help from a suspected tooth infection, we can treat you until you can contact your dentist for emergency dental work. 
Our team of experienced medical professionals understands the urgency and the pain that comes with tooth pain, and they’ll make sure you have top-notch, compassionate care when it comes to getting medical assistance with a suspected tooth infection or a persistent sore throat. Visit our website to find our nearest location to you.