Possible Health Risks Of Untreated Tooth Infection
November 30, 2017 13:57 By Fabiosa
The news regarding the death of the former lead singer of the Brazilian boy band Domino, Ricardo Phalamesca (or Ricardo Bueno, as he was more commonly known), made the headlines partly due to the reason for his death: a tooth infection.
Still young, Ricardo left the world on Thursday, November 16, at the age of 40. His death has left many people on edge. How can a cavity lead someone to such a tragic fate?
In an interview with Perfeito, Dr. Paula Magalhães Freitas, an oral surgeon and member of the Rio de Janeiro Regional Council of Dentistry, explains that several factors are likely to cause a deadly infection. When it comes to cases of tooth infection in particular, however, it is possible to avoid such an outcome with some basic but essential care.
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According to the oral surgeon, a dental infection begins with a simple cavity. Without proper treatment, it progresses and reaches the dental pulp. It is there that the infection may set in, since bacteria can access the core of the tooth. "They [the bacteria] may try to spread to the bone and to the soft tissues, and the body begins to defend itself against these invading bacteria," explained the doctor.
The cavity that may cost too much
Dr. Freitas describes the biological warfare that takes place when these micro-organism attackers begin their attempt to invade our body:
Our defense system begins to release inflammatory cytokines, which is a way of warning our body so that the macrophages, basophils, eosinophils and lymphocytes [our immune system], all of them, really, are sent to the area to fight the bacteria. From that moment on, we may, or may not overcome the bacteria.
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And if the outcome of this battle is the defeat of our immune system, then some symptoms become more noticeable, as the doctor describes: "When the bacteria are able to reach the bloodstream [...], they can cause fever and lymphadenopathy (a type of disease of the lymph nodes), because it is a form of inflammation that is happening in that region."
Dr. Freitas also says that the battle still continues within the bloodstream and the bacteria, killed at this location, starts to release a purulent secretion, which is the sign that the infection is expanding.
This purulent secretion begins its own attempt to seep into various spaces, submandibular or mandibular, looking for a way out of our body. Sometimes, we can release this pus through the mouth. But, occasionally, this fistula happens inside our organs (it is not extra-oral), and then such secretion will gain access to several areas and, yes, it can lead to death.
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A tooth Infection can be a painful torment, but it can also be a silent threat.
The oral surgeon tells us that, generally, an inflammatory process is very painful and causes inflammation of the pulp (reversible pulpitis), but there are cases in which an infection doesn't hurt because the tissue is already dead (irreversible pulpitis).
For this reason, Dr. Freitas also stresses the importance of visiting your dentist regularly, every six months or so, regardless of whether you are one of those people who keeps a toothbrush at hand at all times. Only a professional examination will tell if the patient has an infection which has already affected the pulp enough not to cause any pain.
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It may have been exactly what happened to the former Brazilian singer, Ricardo Bueno, who had septicemia (sepsis) due to a tooth infection.
There is a severe bacterial proliferation, but as the pulpitis becomes irreversible (the tissue is already dead so it does not cause any pain), the person no longer feels pain.
What is septicemia?
Septicemia is popularly known as generalized infection. It occurs when a bacterial infection elsewhere in the body - as in the lungs, skin or in a tooth - reaches the bloodstream. This process is very dangerous and the chances of the body being resistant to it are not very high, because the bacteria and their toxins are transported by the bloodstream, and thus disseminated throughout the whole body.
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Dr. Freitas adds that a simple check-up every six months may be enough to prevent serious problems caused by tartar, also referred to as dental calculus nowadays.
"Many times, calculus causes periodontal disease, because it brings about an accumulation of bacteria that can overcome defensive barriers, such as the placental barrier," warns Dr. Freitas, highlighting that not taking good care of your teeth can cause also unforeseen problems for pregnant women.
"The child may be affected, and even be born with some deformity, without anyone knowing the real reason, when in fact it was some bacteria that came out of the dental calculus and entered the bloodstream," she explains.
Preventing a tooth infection
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Brush your teeth properly after every meal every day and make use of dental floss, because according to the doctor, 35% of our teeth surface is not cleaned when we do not floss.
"Always visit your dentist every six months in order to have a thorough examination, and ask for x-rays at least once a year to check if there is any bone loss," advises the oral surgeon, who stresses the importance of having adequate oral hygiene.
"We [dentists] don’t treat a person’s mouth, we treat the person, their body, which is an organism as a whole." She then concludes, "Everything is connected."
This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.