In March of 2007, the death of a 12-year-old Maryland boy made national headlines. What resulted in his tragic passing? An untreated tooth infection. While deaths resulting from dental problems are relatively rare, it is still important to be aware of the possibility. Read on below to learn how tooth infections can prove to be fatal and what you can do to protect yourself.
How Can Tooth Infections Prove Deadly?
The mouth is an important gateway to the rest of your body. When decay or trauma allow bacteria to sneak inside a tooth, you are likely to develop a serious toothache. If the issue goes untreated for too long, the infection can spread beyond the tooth. It can even get into the bloodstream and cause complications for some of your body’s most vital systems.
Here are a few examples of life-threatening complications that can be the result of an untreated tooth infection:
- Sepsis: A severe reaction of the body to infection
- Necrotizing fasciitis: An infection that kills soft tissues throughout the body
- Endocarditis: Inflammation of the heart’s inner lining
- Brain abscess: A collection of pus in the brain
How to Protect Yourself
At the beginning of the 20th century, tooth infections resulted in death 10 – 40% of the time. Thankfully, those numbers are much lower now. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from the potentially severe consequences of an untreated tooth infection:
Keep Up with Oral Hygiene
Strive to brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. Doing so can remove the majority of harmful bacteria from your mouth, strengthen your tooth enamel, and greatly reduce your risk of developing cavities and infections.
Visit Your General Dentist Regularly
You should visit your general dentist twice a year for a cleaning and checkup. In the vast majority of cases, they can spot areas of concern long before they get infected and lead to a life-threatening crisis. Thorough professional dental cleanings can also do much to keep infections at bay.
Do Not Ignore Dental Problems
If you develop a toothache — especially if it is a severe one — you should seek emergency dental care. Your dentist or oral surgeon may choose to remove an infected tooth and, if necessary, prescribe some antibiotics to kill any harmful bacteria that might be lingering in your body.
Also, keep in mind that if you postpone care for a toothache, and the pain suddenly vanishes, that is not necessarily a good thing. It is possible that your tooth died, but the infection is likely still there and continuing to attack your body.
An untreated tooth infection can lead to deadly consequences! Fortunately, a few simple precautions can prevent this from happening and help you to enjoy a healthy smile and a healthy body.
Meet the Practice
The three board-certified oral surgeons at Piney Point Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery provide a range of advanced services to the Houston community, including emergency treatment. If you are concerned about an infected tooth, give us a call at 713-783-5560. We will do all we can to assist you.