Most people consider a toothache a temporary condition, but unfortunately, sometimes, a toothache can cause severe consequences. After a recent House of Health Innovation Subcommittee meeting, John Cortes, a USA senator, claimed that anyone could die of a toothache that is why many wondered and asked, “Can you die from a toothache?”

To give you peace of mind, let’s find out together if such claims can be backed up. If someone can really die from a toothache, we will also let you understand how that can happen and how can you prevent it from happening.

Can You Die from a Toothache?

You may not have heard about an individual dying because of a toothache, but unfortunately, John Cortes was right. Even when many consider his statement a joke, there are some reported cases wherein a toothache caused death, just like one recent case in Oklahoma of a young 26-year-old man who died due to a toothache.

Therefore, the answer to this question is, “Yes, you can die because of a toothache. Even though these cases are very rare, it is a possibility. In fact, according to dentist associations like ADA, ignoring your toothache can potentially kill you.

Additionally, in a recent interview with PolitiFact Florida, a faculty member at the University of Florida College of Dentistry, Dr. Thomas Porter, claims that death from complications with an infected tooth is a possibility. That is why if you are suffering from a toothache, it is recommended to take serious steps to find the reasons for the pain and get it treated. So, in more technical terms, it is actually a tooth abscess that is the main culprit.

What Is a Tooth Abscess?

A tooth abscess is also a rare dental condition but a very serious one. It occurs when the tooth nerve or the dental pulp gets too overwhelmed with bacteria. This results in the infection between our gums and tooth, and in some cases, this infection often spreads to the surrounding bone.

That usually causes severe throbbing pain as well as swelling. You will also find it very difficult to chew with that particular tooth. If not treated, the infection will keep on spreading, and sometimes it reaches the brain, which can be fatal.

According to doctors, the problem only becomes severe when the patients don’t get treatment immediately. With time, the infection keeps progressing, and the patient becomes septic.

In dental history, people even ended up with a golf ball size abscess in their brain. This cause brain injury, trauma, stroke, coma, and even death.

Sometimes tooth abscess also spreads to the spinal cord, and in some cases, to the lungs. This happens when the infection spreads to your bone marrow or bloodstream and reaches your lungs. When this happens, the risk of death or failure of major organs increases.

In one case of a 12-year-old boy back in 2017, the tooth abscess caused brain infection that resulted in two major operations that costed more than USD 250,000. Unfortunately, the boy still died after the operations, even when USD 100 tooth extraction treatment was enough to treat him if he was diagnosed in time.

Determining if You Have a Tooth Abscess

Even though a toothache in most cases is a temporary condition due to tooth decay, the build-up of bacteria, and cavities, the pain caused by an infection is serious. Tooth decay is often the beginning point that develops into cavities and then, if not treated, in some cases leads to a tooth abscess.

To treat this type of a toothache¬†or condition, you need to learn to identify when a toothache is serious. In that case, you don’t need a painkiller, instead, you need to visit the doctor as soon as possible.

Here are some of the questions that you need to ask yourself to determine if what you are experiencing are symptoms of a tooth abscess:

  • Are you experiencing persistent throbbing and severe pain?
  • Are your teeth getting more and more sensitive to temperature?
  • Do you also suffer from frequent fevers along with a toothache?
  • Do you feel that your jaws are swelling?
  • Are there swollen lymph nodes in your neck or jaw?
  • Is your mouth producing a lot of foul and salty fluid?

If your answer most of the above questions is a yes, the chances are, you are suffering from a tooth infection that is spreading or tooth abscess.

Tooth Abscess Causes and Treatment

One of the most common causes of a tooth abscess is untreated cavities. This is why it is important to get your cavities treated as soon as you feel them. In most cases, dentists can easily treat your tooth abscess if they catch it early.

The most common method to treat a tooth abscess is to drain the tooth and perform a root canal. In some cases, dentists can also remove the tooth with infection if it is too overwhelmed with bacteria. You may also have to take antibiotics when getting your tooth abscess treated.

How Rare is a Death from Toothache?

In 15th and 16th centuries, toothache was often ranked as the fifth or sixth leading cause of death in the world. However, with the progress in medical science and advanced methods of treatment, it is highly unlikely someone dies from a toothache in our time.

While it is true that deaths from a toothache or tooth infection are very rare, tooth abscess still results in many hospitalizations with dangerous conditions. Even when it doesn’t cause death in most cases, people have to stay in the hospital for days.

According to a nine-year study published in the Journal of Endodontics, more than sixty thousand people in the United States of America have been hospitalized for one year due to a tooth abscess. Unfortunately, 66 people also died in a year due to a tooth infection.


In the end, the answer to the question “Can you die from a toothache?” is a “Yes, but not directly.” That is because it is not really the toothache that kills but the cause of a toothache, especially if it is a tooth abscess that is causing your toothache.

Timely treatment of cavities and tooth decay can help you avoid any severe and unwanted consequences. You must always remember that even when death is still a very rare outcome of a tooth abscess plus a toothache, it still is a reason for thousands of yearly hospitalizations.

Simply put, don’t take your toothache easy, especially if you are suffering from persistent throbbing pain. In these cases, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

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