Dentoalveolar Infections Symptoms & Causes


We provide some basic information on this page. When you meet with our experts here at Boston Children's Hospital, they can explain your treatment options fully. 

What is a dentoalveolar infection?

“Dentoalveolar” simply means related to the teeth and their sockets. A dentoalveolar infection is an infection in or around your child’s tooth/teeth.

Will it go away on its own?

No. If your child has a dentoalveolar infection, he or she will need treatment. For most dentoalveolar infections, treatment involves an attempt to save your child’s tooth by the dentist. If that is not possible, the tooth may need to be removed. Antibiotics may need to be prescribed at the same time to treat the infection. 

How serious is it?

If caught early, most dentoalveolar infections can be treated by antibiotics or by tooth extraction. If left untreated, however, the infection can spread to other parts of your child’s mouth and even get into the blood, causing a serious condition called “sepsis.”


What causes a dentoalveolar infection?

It starts when bacteria enter a tooth through an untreated cavity or a chip in the enamel. It can also be caused when food is trapped in the soft tissue surrounding a tooth.


If your child has any of the following symptoms, you should take him or her to the dentist or pediatrician: 

  • Toothache
  • Fever
  • Cheek swelling
  • Tooth sensitivity to hot, cold or pressure
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Redness or swelling of the gums next to a tooth 

If your child has an abscess that ruptures, bad-tasting fluid (pus) may rush into his or her mouth. Even after the abscess ruptures and the pain goes away, the source of the infection still needs to be treated.

What is my child’s long-term outlook?

Most dentoalveolar infections are treated with antibiotics and cleaning out or removal of the affected tooth or teeth.  However, if the infection spreads, it can be much more difficult to treat and could even require surgery and hospitalization. Be sure to bring your child to the dentist or pediatrician at the first sign of an infection.


When you are deciding on a snack for your child, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health, reminds you to think about the following: 

  • The number of times a day she eats sugary snacks
  • How long the sugary food stays in her mouth
  • Whether the sugary food is chewy or sticky 

According to the NIDCR, damaging acids form in your mouth every time you eat a sugary snack. Consider an alternative, such as raw vegetables, fresh fruits or whole-grain crackers next time your child asks you for a snack.