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Dangers of a tooth abscess Part 2: Ludwigs Angina

Dangers of a tooth abscess Part 2: Ludwigs Angina

oral surgeon ChicagoPatients who have a tooth abscess anywhere in the Chicago-land area have a compelling reason to visit a Chicago oral surgeon. Many times, a dental abscess must be drained through a surgical procedure in conjunction with a tooth extraction in order to avoid more dangerous local or systemic issues developing elsewhere.

When the bacteria travels to other sites in the body, more serious problems can develop, including Ludwig’s angina. This is why it’s important to visit an oral surgeon as soon as you suspect you may have a dental abscess.

Not to be confused with the most common meaning of angina, which is pain in the chest, Ludwigs angina is an infection that affects the connective tissues found in the floor of the mouth, neck and encompassing the airway.

Ludwig’s angina is not very common, but it can develop when a tooth abscess in the lower jaw extends and travels within the soft tissue spaces in the floor of the mouth and quickly spreads further from there.

In Ludwig’s angina, the tongue may become swollen and painful, and swelling may also become evident in the neck and chin or under the tongue. A condition called trismus develops which causes limited range of mouth opening due to pain.  As the condition progresses, patients begin to have difficulty swallowing and even breathing becomes labored due to upper airway constriction.

Make no mistake, this condition is a surgical emergency and can be quickly fatal due to airway compromise.  That is correct, you can die from a tooth abscess!  In Chicago, it requires the expert care of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who will aggressively treat this life-threatening emergency with the placement of multiple drains and incisions, removal of the offending tooth or teeth, and I.V. antibiotics in the operating room.  The oral surgeon may even need to perform a tracheostomy to maintain and protect the airway and prevent fatality.  Patients whose airways are compromised may also need mechanical ventilation in an intensive care unit until the acute infection phase has abated.

It can be difficult for patients to tell the difference between a typical toothache and an abscess, so you should become familiar with the signs of abscess. With an abscess, the toothache may be more severe and enduring and it’s likely to be accompanied by fever and swelling.  Wisdom teeth are notorious for developing abscesses, but it can happen with any tooth in the mouth.

An oral surgeon can use various methods to eliminate a dental abscess, and the surgeon will take steps to make the procedure as smooth as possible, including comfortable sedation.  Anxiety should not keep you from seeking treatment for a dental abscess, but if it does, consider the possible adverse effects of postponing treatment.

To learn more and to schedule a consultation, please contact the Chicago oral surgery practice of Drs. Steven Koos and Brian Shah today.


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