Oral hygiene isn’t just important for keeping your teeth and gums in good condition — it’s also essential for your overall health. Rotting teeth can cause harmful bacteria in your mouth to build up and cause infections, which can then spread throughout the body via the bloodstream. This can lead to a number of dangerous health issues down the line. So, can rotting teeth cause stomach problems? The short answer is yes — if left untreated, rotting teeth can lead to stomach issues if the infection infiltrates your bloodstream. In this guide, we explain why this happens and what to do about it.
What Causes Rotting Teeth?
Firstly, let’s look at why and how tooth rotting occurs.
We all have bacteria living in our mouths. This bacteria creates a film over our teeth called dental plaque. When we eat foods containing sugars and carbohydrates, the bacteria in the plaque feeds on these carbs and sugars. This feeding process produces an acid that slowly wears away at our tooth enamel, which is the hard outer layer of the tooth.
When this happens, cavities begin to form in our teeth. Cavities are tiny pin-prick holes that appear on the surface of the tooth and open into large crevices below the tooth enamel. They may appear black or brown.
After a cavity has formed, our tooth is essentially ‘open’. This means that the dentine, the bone-like matter that sits underneath the enamel, becomes exposed to bacteria and plaque. Because the dentine is soft, it tends to decay quickly once the bacteria reaches it.
Once the dentine is affected, the bacteria can then reach the pulp of the tooth. This is very dangerous, as the pulp is the innermost layer of the tooth that contains the blood vessels and nerves that provide our teeth with sensation.
Once bacteria has reached the pulp, you’ll likely experience intense pain.
At this point of tooth rotting, the tooth and gum become vulnerable to disease and infection.
Symptoms of Rotting Teeth
The signs of tooth decay include
- Changes to the gums, such as pain, bleeding, or pus. and bone loss.
- Discoloured patches on the teeth
- Tooth pain
- Bad breath
- An unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Tooth sensitivity
Once bacteria has infiltrated the pulp of the tooth, you are at risk of developing gum disease.
Tooth decay can cause an infection to form in the gum when bacteria enters the area.
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease. Symptoms include sore, red, and bleeding gums.
If left to progress, gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease, which is a more severe presentation of gum disease. It can cause pain, pus, bleeding, tooth wobbling, and in severe cases, tooth and bone loss.
Infection in the pulp of the tooth is known as an abscess.
A tooth abscess is a pocket of pus that forms either at the tip of the tooth root (periapical abscess) or in the gums at the side of the tooth root (periodontal abscess). Symptoms include a throbbing toothache that may spread throughout the head, tooth pain or sensitivity, fever, swelling of the face, swollen lymph nodes around your jaw or neck, and a foul taste in your mouth.
Can Infected Gums Make You Sick?
Gum disease, particularly the more severe periodontal disease, can make you sick if left untreated.
When your gum is diseased and your tooth is decayed, it allows a pathway for the harmful bacteria in your mouth to enter your bloodstream. This carries the infection through the body where it can begin to target other organs.
A gum infection can spread to the face, neck, and more distant areas of the body where the infection can become systemic, and affect multiple tissues.
People who have weakened immune systems are more likely to experience a spread of infection.
Some of the infections that can develop through the body as a result of gum disease include
- Osteomyelitis – an infection of the bone that surrounds the teeth
- Callulitis – an infection of the skin and the fat that lies underneath the skin
- Cavernous Sinus Thrombosis – an infection of the blood vessels in the sinuses
- Pharapharyngeal Abscess – an abscess that appears at the back of the mouth
- Sepsis – this is a life-threatening medical condition that causes the immune system to overreact to an infection in the bloodstream
Gut Health and Teeth: How Bad Teeth Can Affect Your Gut
We know that bacteria naturally lives in our mouths. This means that every time you swallow, you swallow thousands of bacteria.
While this might sound a bit off-putting, there’s no need to rush off and rinse your mouth out. Some of these bacteria are actually good for us.
Your mouth needs good bacteria to keep your teeth and body healthy. Probiotic bacteria protect the mouth by releasing acids that keep decay-causing bacteria at bay.
Other types of good bacteria protect against the bad bacteria that cause gum disease.
However, there are a number of harmful bacteria strains living in your mouth as well.
When there is a bacterial imbalance in your mouth, — you have too many bad bacteria and too few good bacteria — not only will your teeth and gums suffer, but your gut health can become affected too.
Think of your digestive system as a long, winding hallway, and your mouth as the entry to that hallway.
When you swallow too many bad bacteria due to poor oral health, the rest of your digestive system is also exposed to these harmful bacteria.
Studies have shown a clear link between oral disease and systemic disease, with oral pathogens linked to rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and cardiovascular disease.
Can Rotting or Bad Teeth Cause Stomach Problems?
Rotting teeth have been linked to certain stomach-related issues.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and digestive irregularities are the two main stomach issues that arise as a result of rotting teeth.
In cases of severe, untreated tooth decay and infection, sepsis may result, which can present with gastrointestinal symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
Rotting Teeth and IBD
There are two conditions that fall under the IBD banner; Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.
Both conditions present as inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
Researchers have found a connection between the overgrowth of foreign bacteria in the stomachs of people suffering from IBD. This prompted further research into whether oral disease plays a part in gastrointestinal diseases.
The researchers found that gum inflammation did indeed cause the inflammation in the stomach to worsen.
There are two key ways in which oral bacteria worsen stomach inflammation.
Firstly, severe gum disease creates an imbalance in the mouth’s microbiome, which leads to an increase of the bacteria that causes gum inflammation. This bacteria travels down to the stomach and causes inflammation when it arrives there.
Our stomachs are usually able to resist a buildup of harmful bacteria, but this bad oral bacteria can disrupt the stomach’s healthy bacteria. This weakens the stomach’s ability to effectively fight against disease-causing bacteria from the mouth.
Secondly, gum disease activates the immune system’s T cells in our mouths. These cells then travel down to the stomach, where they exacerbate stomach inflammation.
So, bad oral bacteria contribute to the development of IBD because these strains weaken our ability to fight off infection. Additionally, the body’s response to these harmful bacteria triggers an immune system response, which in turn weakens the stomach.
Rotting Teeth and Digestion
Digestion starts the moment you begin to eat or drink. In fact, your salivary glands jump into action at the mere sight of food.
These salivary glands help to break down food in our mouths by secreting enzymes that chip away at starches and fats. These enzymes then lubricate food from the esophagus to the stomach and help to continually break down food particles through the digestive process.
Our teeth also play an essential role in how we digest food.
The process of chewing triggers the production of hydrochloric acid, which asists with digestion by regulating your pH levels and increasing acidity levels to aid food breakdown.
Without functioning, healthy teeth, we can’t adequately tear, grind, and chew our food properly.
When we swallow food that hasn’t been chewed properly, larger food particles enter the digestive tract, which can cause issues such as gas, bloating, constipation, and food reactions.
Rotted teeth often cause pain or sensitivity, which makes chewing very difficult. In many cases, rotted teeth also change the function of our bite. Missing or severely decayed teeth prevent our upper and lower arches from meeting properly to form a bite, which prevents us from chewing our food properly.
In other words, rotted teeth prevent us from chewing and breaking down our food before we swallow. This often results in digestive discomfort.
Rotting Teeth and Sepsis
Rotting teeth can become life-threatening when the bad bacteria enters the bone or tissue below the tooth, forming a dental abscess.
The abscess infection can trigger an inflammatory response by your immune system, which causes a widespread reaction throughout the body.
This extreme response to infection is known as sepsis and it is a life-threatening condition.
Sepsis causes a range of symptoms, including stomach symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.
More concerningly, it can cause tissue damage and organ failure throughout the body.
Can a Toothache Cause Diarrhea?
Not all toothaches become serious health concerns snf diarrhea is not a common symptom associated with toothaches.
However, diarrhea can be a sign that your tooth infection is spreading through the body via your bloodstream.
If tooth decay is the cause of your diarrhea, it may be accompanied by other symptoms such as
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Fever, sweating or chills
- Face swelling
- Very dark urine
- Reduced frequency of urination
- Rapid heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Stomach pain
What to Do About Rotting Teeth
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of sepsis listed above, seek immediate emergency care. This is a serious, life-threatening condition that needs to be seen to promptly.
If you are experiencing signs of a dental abscess, such as a throbbing toothache, tooth pain, fever, swelling of the face, or pain when chewing or biting, seek a same-day appointment with your dentist. Your abscess will need to be treated immediately to prevent the infection from spreading.
The signs of gum disease include sore, red, and bleeding gums. If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Treating gum disease early will help to protect your mouth and body from further damage.
For early-stage tooth decay (if you notice a cavity forming), book an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
Visit our blog on how to prevent tooth rotting.
A Final Word
Rotting teeth can cause a range of issues throughout the body, ranging from stomach problems and inflammation to life-threatening sepsis.
It is essential to have all signs of tooth rotting seen to by your dentist immediately to prevent serious health issues from developing.
At Kew Dentistry, we’re here to help you keep your oral microbiome healthy and treat any signs of tooth decay or gum disease in children and adults.
You can book an appointment with us online today.