Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD
Our bodies are amazing fighting machines programmed to keep us healthy. But sometimes micro organisms may take a step ahead and this is where we see the infections happening as our bodies create an inflammatory response as they attempt to fight against these organisms. This is when pain, fever and swelling happen. Unfortunately, sometimes people see a dental cavity as something insignificant that will not affect them. But untreated cavities can progress into the nerve of the tooth where blood flow is also present, having communication with the immune system cells that fight the bacteria and forming a dental abscess. If this abscess is not treated, further swelling and complications can happen. The head and neck are extremely delicate areas in our bodies containing major blood vessels, complicated layers of muscles, and specialized tissue. Between all these structures are what is known as “potential spaces”. These are areas where the untreated infections have the “potential” to spread to, causing swelling that can be life threatening depending on how close it is to vital structures such as the airway or brain, among others. Also, the bacteria involved in that infection can be carried to other areas in the body by the systemic circulation causing sepsis, which needs immediate medical attention in a hospital environment. No infection should ever be left untreated, no matter how small it might look!