What is a Jaw Infection and what does it feel like?

It is common for general dentists and specialists to work together to treat conditions which impact a patient’s jaw. Treatment teams often work in a multidisciplinary manner, allowing various oral care specialists to collaborate and discuss the best treatment plan.


Jaw Conditions

Trauma of the jaw is typically caused by an accident or injury. When reconstruction of the jaw is required, it is typically managed by a team of several different types of doctors. Jaw deformities are often treated through the use of various surgical and orthodontic techniques A reconstruction team may include various doctors such as dentists, otolaryngologists or ear, nose and throat specialists, oral surgeons, and facial plastic surgeons. Because the overall appearance of the mouth plays such a vital role in the patient’s cosmetic appearance and self-esteem, the reconstruction team works together to restore both the appearance and function of the jaw.


An infection of the jaw bone or dental abscess occurs when a dental cavity is not treated. An untreated cavity allows bacteria to form and ultimately causes an infection. Infections which are not treated promptly, can travel into the jaw bone over time. This can result in serious, long-term health issues. Common symptoms associated with a jaw bone infection or dental abscess include the following:

  • Jaw or mouth pain
  • Pus drainage near the infected area
  • Redness and swelling


When an infection is present in the jaw bone, dentists will use imaging and blood work to evaluate the severity of the infection. Treatment for a jaw bone infection typically includes a prescription for antibiotics. In cases of severe infection, surgery may be required.


Patients who have a fever or swelling of the face who are unable to reach their dentist should proceed to the emergency room. Patients should also go to the nearest emergency room in the event they are experiencing difficulty with swallowing or breathing. When a patient experiences these symptoms, it can indicate a spread of the infection. The injection may have spread deeper into the jaw, surrounding tissue, and other areas of the body.


Patients with an abscess should follow up with their dentist right away for treatment. The dentist will usually attempt to drain the infection and prescribe antibiotics. When the abscess is severe, treatment may require surgery to prevent the infection from spreading into the bones. In some cases, the tooth may need to be extracted.


Osteonecrosis of the jaw occurs following radiation treatment. This issue is a result of the bones losing their blood supply and failing to properly heal. It is recommended that patients who require radiation treatment undergo a dental screening prior to treatment to identify if they are at an increased risk for osteonecrosis.


Tooth abscesses will not go away on their own and require treatment. A ruptured abscess may help to significantly reduce the pain, however, dental treatment is still required. When an abscess does not drain, it can allow the infection to spread to the jaw or other areas of the neck and head. While it is rare, it is possible for a patient to develop sepsis. This condition is life-threatening and occurs when the infection spreads throughout the body and impacts the organs.

Stress and Jaw Pain