ZocdocAnswersI have a broken molar with decay--is my general health at risk?

Question

I have a broken molar with decay--is my general health at risk?

I'm 53, broke a molar in the back of my mouth, and have periodic pain (not consistent). What is the risk that this will affect my general health (cause internal infection, heart problems, etcetera?)

Answer

First off I am sorry to hear that you broke a molar and are having pain. I would definitely recommend going to a dentist to have it looked at and repaired and/or removed. I cannot quote you a percentage risk as far as your chance of developing an infection, but I can tell you that anecdotally it does happen. Furthermore, since I am not able to take a thorough history or examine you well, I can't answer this question as I would be able to otherwise in an office setting. Thus there is no substitute for a visit with a thorough exam by your physician or dentist. Essentially what a broken/decayed tooth does is open up an access point for bacteria to enter. The tooth can become infected itself, leading to something like a root tip abscess that can lead to a more serious potentially life threatening infection/abscess like ludwig's angina which is an abscess in the floor of your mouth (this obviously depends on what tooth was broken and at risk). I can't tell you for sure that this is going to happen, but your risk is definitely higher. Furthermore, if you have any implantable devices in your body (like a pacemaker or heart valve) they are at higher risk of getting infected by bacteria that can enter your blood stream from an infection. I don;t mean to scare you, but just wanted to give the physician perspective...would definitely recommend getting the tooth looked at by a dentist. Best of luck. Hope this helps.

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