Sat, May 4, 2013
A bacterial oral infection can be caused either by bacteria already present in the mouth or by organisms introduced to the body. Most of the time, bacteria are beneficial. Most bacteria live on the skin and teeth of the body, in the spaces between our teeth and gums, and in the mucous membranes in our body, like those that line our throats. Harmful bacteria enter the body when they spread to us from another person and can also enter the body when the mucous membranes get damaged, creating an easy entry point for the bacteria.
Bacteria from dental caries (a tooth cavity) can extend into the gums, the cheek, the throat, beneath the tongue, or even into the jaw or facial bones. A dental abscess can become very painful when tissues become inflamed or due to the pressure within the abscess. A gum or gingival abscess is the result of infection or trauma to the surface of the gum tissue. Periodontal abscesses are the result of an infection that has moved deeper into gum areas, and a periapical abscess refers to a tooth with an infection of the pulp.
Rarely, the infection can progress to the point at which swelling threatens to block the airway, causing difficulty breathing. Dental abscesses can also make you generally ill, with nausea, vomiting, fevers, chills, and sweats.
Oral and maxillofacial surgeons are dentists who have an extra four to six years of training. Among other things, they are trained to treat infections in the head and neck region. They treat many types of infections. Some are infections of the head and neck that have spread beyond the teeth.
These infections have a few common causes:
- An infection of the pulp (center) of a tooth
- An infection from a wisdom tooth that has come in only partway
- An infection that occurs after a tooth is removed
- A gum infection
- An infection caused by an injury
- An infection caused by blocked flow of saliva
Symptoms of an infection include:
- Difficulty opening the mouth
Problems swallowing or breathing (with severe infections)
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your dentist. If your infection is confined to one area, your dentist can often treat it without referring you to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. If your dentist is not available and you do not have an oral surgeon close by, you should go to your local emergency room for treatment. You may need a surgeon if:
- The infection has spread
- The infected area is very swollen
- The infection is making you ill
- You are having problems swallowing or breathing
Many infections do not spread. But some spread quickly throughout the face and jaw, making it difficult to open your mouth, swallow and control your saliva. There have been reports of infections from teeth in the upper jaw spreading into the brain. In some cases, infections involving teeth on the lower jaw have led to breathing problems. Therefore, you should not ignore signs of infection in the mouth. If you notice a swelling in your head and neck region, including your mouth, go to see your dentist or physician quickly. Then they can diagnose what is causing the swelling and treat it.