Just a few weeks ago, a 26-year- old truck driver and father of two preschoolers left home to make a routine cross-country haul. Before he left, he was complaining about a slight toothache. By the time, he got to Oklahoma, he sought out a dentist who treated the tooth and gave him antibiotics with an assurance that this should give him some relief until he could have it taken care of at home. Instead, it continued to get worse. When he got to New York, his face had swollen and he was feeling too weak to drive the rig back home. His brother came to the rescue and they headed west, but when they got to Utah, it was clear that the young father needed some help. He checked into a Utah hospital and four days later he was dead. The Cause of death? Total organ failure due to a common abscessed tooth. Before antibiotics, “teeth” was listed as the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Even today, around 10,000 people are treated for common tooth infections, and of that number about 10 dies. Doctors say that today that number is on the rise because of antibiotic resistant super-bugs like MRSA. But most these deaths can be prevented with just routine dental care.
How does a tooth become infected in the first place? The human body has natural defenses that protect itself from invading bacteria. Those defenses are breached when a tooth is damaged by a trauma or most often by a common cavity. The bacteria make a nice little nest at the base of the root, and it’s game on. Like any infection, pus is produced. If the pus can find a way to vent, you may never know you have an abscess unless your dentist spots it in a regular check-up. If not, the pus will collect in a pocket and the building pressure will cause intense pain.
Once a patient is diagnosed with an abscess, he is usually treated with an oral antibiotic and pain medications until the infection is gone. The tooth may then be treated with a root canal and a crown or it may be pulled. Crisis averted. Here is a list of common symptoms of a dental abscess:
- Severe, persistent, throbbing toothache
- Sensitivity to temperatures and pressure
- A “bubble” at the base of the tooth
- Swelling in your jaw or face
- Tender swollen lymph nodes in neck or jaw
- Bad breath
- If the abscess ruptures, you may have a sudden rush of foul, salty fluid in your mouth. This will give you almost immediate relief from the pain, but it is not a cure for the infection. You still need to seek prompt treatment.
See your dentist promptly if you have any signs or symptoms of a tooth abscess. If you have a fever and swelling in your face and you can’t reach your dentist, go to an emergency room. Also, go to the emergency room if you have trouble breathing or swallowing. These symptoms may indicate that the infection has spread deeper into your jaw and surrounding tissue or even to other areas of your body.
If you don’t have a regular dentist, we at Apple Dentistry are here for you. We don’t like to see anybody in pain. We treat abscesses like emergencies and will make your condition a priority. Of all the dentists you could choose in the Monroe, West Monroe, Sterlington area, we hope that you will give us an opportunity to serve you.