Bad breath is one of the potential symptoms of a tooth infection, explains the National Institutes of Health. The foul or offensive odor is usually a result of a tooth abscess, which is often characterized as a collection of pus caused by tooth decay. This decay is usually brought on by a bacterial infection near the root of the tooth, but it may also develop along the gum line. To help eliminate the bad breath, you must first treat the cause of the odor, which is the tooth abscess.
Before you ever develop bad breath from a tooth infection, you most likely experienced another symptom often associated with a tooth abscess. It isn't uncommon to feel some level of pain near the affected tooth, running anywhere from a dull, gnawing throb to a sharp, shooting ache, according to the National Institutes of Health. You may also experience some facial tenderness or swelling, as well as a fever, from an abscess.
The foul odor isn't actually caused by the decay itself. It's a byproduct of the bacteria responsible for the decay. The National Institutes of Health explains that the bacteria release sulfur compounds that give the breath an offensive odor. However, it isn't until the abscess ruptures that the infection causes the bad breath, advises the Mayo Clinic. The bad breath is typically accompanied by a bitter flavor in the mouth.
An abscess isn't something you can treat on your own. You'll need to enlist the help of your dentist to properly treat the infection, and thereby remedy the bad breath. The seriousness of this infection dictates treatment. For some, the abscess need only be drained and antibiotics prescribed to bring relief. Others may need to have a root canal to save the tooth, advises the University of Maryland Medical Center.
If you're unable to get into the dentist right away, or are still plagued with bad breath, the National Institutes of Health suggests chewing fresh mint or parsley to reduce the odor. This is only a temporary solution, and the odor will inevitably return.
The Mayo Clinic warns against leaving an abscess untreated. This is largely due to the fact that the infection can actually spread to other teeth and areas of the gum. It may even begin to affect other areas of your head and neck. In the most severe cases, an untreated abscess can become life-threatening.