Children with infected teeth commonly don’t get too upset. Often the infection is painless and in the event the tooth is pulled, a child will look forward to the tooth fairy paying a visit in the middle of the night.

This is not true for adults. An infected tooth can cause pain, swollen lymph nodes, and other symptoms. The remedy is often expensive and in the case of a root canal being necessary the pain and the cost of treatment increases fast.

Other infections can also cause the lymph nodes in the neck to enlarge/swell in response to the bacterial infection.

No Money From the Tooth Fairy

Adults who see their dental provider regularly rarely have problems with infected teeth because cavities are found early and treated before an infection sets in. Those with a compromised immune system may have a higher risk for all types of infections including oral infections.

It is well worth the cost of regular dental visits to avoid complications of an untreated cavity because instead of getting money from the tooth fairy there may be added cost for the following:

  • Root canal
  • Antibiotic treatment
  • Removal of tooth
  • Implants
  • Partials
  • Dentures

Bacteria cause teeth to become infected. (Premalignant Oral Lesions – Poor oral hygiene and a weakened immune system contribute to a tooth becoming infected or abscessed. Symptoms include pain, fever, swelling, halitosis (severe bad breath), drainage, and difficulty chewing.

Be Careful With Antibiotics

Though antibiotics will fight a bacterial infection research has shown that the widespread use of antibiotics has contributed to the increase in resistant bacterial infections like MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and VRSA (Vancomycin Resistant Staphylococcus).

The body has its own system for fighting bacteria. When it is present, the body will start working to filter out and destroy the bacteria so it doesn’t spread to other parts of the body. It is done by lymph nodes that filter lymph and when they get to working on an infection they often swell and become painful.

How Lymph Nodes Fight Infections

Mostly people think of cancer when lymph nodes swell up, but it is actually an uncommon cause of swelling. More commonly there is a minor infection in the body and within a week or two the nodes will return to normal size. The nodes will prevent cancer, bacteria, and viruses from traveling throughout the body and spreading the infection or disease.

When treatment is delayed it can cause sepsis or the cancer can spread because the lymph glands become overwhelmed and the pathogen is able to get by the lymph node.

Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes in the Neck

What are other causes of swollen lymph nodes in the neck? Though an infected tooth will cause the glands in the neck to swell in response to the infection, there are other causes of the swelling. Among the most serious causes include cancer and resistant strains of Staphylococcus. Other causes include the following:

With the increase in facial and mouth piercing there is an increased risk of infection due to the piercing. The cervical lymph node region includes the lymph nodes in the neck.

Learn About – Mesenteric Lymph Nodes


A healthcare professional can determine if an infected tooth is causing the lymph nodes to swell. Early treatment may prevent a yearning for the tooth fairy to visit to help pay for a costly root canal.