Dangers of a tooth abscess Part 1: Bacteremia and Septicemia
Not only does a dental abscess—a severe infection located beyond a tooth’s root or between the gums and the teeth—cause pain in a patient’s mouth, the condition can also lead to broader systemic problems throughout the body.
If the dental abscess is not treated, the bacteria from the infection can spread via the bloodstream to other parts of the body. Fortunately, a tooth extraction can protect Chicago patients from such an outcome.
An oral surgeon may also recommend treating an abscess by making an incision, or several incisions in the gum, soft tissue, and muscles of the face and neck to allow the abscess to drain.
Certain complications can arise if an abscess is not treated in a timely fashion, and two of those are bacteremia and septicemia.
Bacteremia is the introduction of bacteria into the blood. The blood is typically a sterile environment, so it is problematic if bacteria from the abscess enters the bloodstream because it can have distant effects. Signs of bacteremia could be slight fever, nausea and distal infection.
Rarely, bacteremia may resolve on its own. It also may progress into septicemia, a more serious blood infection that is always accompanied by symptoms such as chills, high fever, rapid heartbeat, severe nausea, vomiting and confusion. These symptoms indicate a more widespread inflammatory response by the immune system to the microbes in the blood, tissue, gums, or bone from a tooth abscess. A lay term for sepsis is blood poisoning, also used to describe septicemia.
If the septicemia is not controlled, sepsis, which is often fatal, comes next. Severe sepsis is the systemic inflammatory response, plus infection, plus the presence of organ dysfunction. Sepsis causes shock and organ failure, ultimately resulting in a patient’s death. It is very difficult to reverse sepsis after it has begun its course.
Fortunately, bacteremia and septicemia can be prevented if a tooth abscess is treated quickly. Patients should not wait for the abscess to rupture on its own or become worse. Some abscesses can remain pain free and be in a chronic state, but a patient is equally at risk for bacteremia and septicemia from a chronic infection too. Any dental infection in Chicago needs the prompt response of our oral and maxillofacial surgeon, which will reduce the likelihood of complications like bacteremia and septicemia.
Additional signals like fever, swollen lymph nodes and extreme tooth sensitivity can all indicate that an average toothache is evolving into something more serious.
If you’ve been plagued by an enduring toothache accompanied by the other symptoms of abscess, schedule an evaluation with our dual-degree oral surgeons at ORA® Oral Surgery & Implant Studio in Chicago to determine if you have an abscess that requires an intervention. Call 312-328-9000 for your appointment.