But the good news is, a visit to your dentist could literally save your life.
BTW – as much as I like using photos to illustrate a point, no worries here, this post is safe to view at work, at home, around the kids, and will NOT upset your stomach at all. No gory photos!
A Tooth Infection is REALLY Close to Your Brain & Throat
As I mentioned on our Facebook Fan Page earlier this week, it isn’t often that a general “family” dentist gets the opportunity to save a person’s life, but this week that happened here at our south Charlotte family dental office. A young man came to us through 1-800-DENTIST, and he’d been absolutely miserable for almost a month. The right side of his face was severely swollen, to the point he couldn’t open his right eye, and he had difficulty opening his mouth enough for us even to take a look and identify the problem tooth. He could barely even talk, and was clearly exhausted from not being able to sleep well for a long time.
With a good x-ray and brief exam, the problem tooth was identified as an upper right molar (top right back jaw tooth) with a major cavity. On the x-ray, it looked like the roots were close to the sinus, which explained why he had some really bad sinus pressure on that side, too. Literally, the tooth abscess had penetrated his sinus. And if the infection was into his sinus, that meant it was not all that far from his brain. As most anyone knows, pretty much ANY infection that reaches the brain will put you in the hospital, and even if you survive, there is potential for severe brain damage.
If a lower jaw tooth abscesses that bad, the risk is a little different: the infection can spread through spaces between different tissue levels under the tongue, down the throat, and if it gets bad enough, can force your esophagus (your food goes down that) and trachea (the way air gets to your lungs) closed. That means you can’t either eat or breathe!
Please Take a Dental Abscess Seriously!
After seeing the young man, we realized we had to act quickly, or he would end up in the hospital within 24 hours (probably a lot less than that). Antibiotics, unless they are given by an IV or in extremely high doses, can take 12-24 hours before they build up to an effective level in your blood, so they don’t work that fast! We made time in our schedule and were not only able to remove the tooth, but to drain an incredible amount of the infection away. He could actually open his eye by the time he left! But if we hadn’t seen him immediately, the incredible pressure from the infection would have just continued to build, the pain would have worsened, and eventually the infection would have forced its way, through whatever tiny space it could find, into his brain.
The Mouth is the Gateway to the Whole Body
It’s sad that more of the public isn’t made aware of how deadly a tooth abscess can be; people think to themselves, “It’s only a tooth/my gums, after all.” But the teeth and gums provide a direct path into the rest of your body, and you have some extremely vital organs very close by. Please don’t kid yourself……if there is major swelling of the face, it is SERIOUS.
A Happy Ending
The good news in this story, is that we’ve seen the young man back each of the last 2 days to follow-up. While the swelling hasn’t disappeared completely (the antibiotics will eventually take care of that), today he was able to actually smile when he shook my hand, and after 2 nights of awesome sleep, he said that he feels like a new man.
And that, dear friends, is one of the reasons I absolutely LOVE being a dentist!
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We’ll look forward to meeting you soon!