Risk of serious head and neck infections related to lack of dental care and poor oral hygiene

Scientific evidence of the link between oral infections and overall health is steadily increasing. A recent doctoral thesis from the University of Turku in Finland showed that poor oral hygiene increases the risk of serious head and neck infections requiring hospitalization. At the same time, research has found that investments in oral health and dental care can reduce the costs, complications and mortality associated with these infections.

As tooth or throat inflammation progresses, a deep neck infection often manifests itself in the form of a serious bacterial infection. Treatment usually involves intravenous antibiotics and surgery on the mouth, jaw and neck, sometimes requiring intensive care.

Study of severe oral facial and neck infections

In a recent patient study, the disease course, complications, and microbiological influencing factors were examined in 277 patients using magnetic resonance imaging during emergency neck imaging. Results show that neck infections are a growing problem, with an increasing proportion of tooth-related infections.

The results of the study showed that head and neck infections resulted in death (1.4%) of severely ill patients, and complications occurred in about one-fifth of the cases. Research has found that MRI of the neck is a useful and accurate diagnostic method, even during on-call hours.

The study also looked at factors that exacerbate and prevent head and neck infections. It confirms the importance of poor oral hygiene and lack of dental care as background factors leading to infections requiring hospitalization. Patients who reuse acute dental services are particularly at risk.

Because tooth decay and its progression are preventable, investments in good oral health, education, and adequate access to dental care can help reduce the substantial costs, complications, and mortality associated with these infections. Studies also indicate that in children, deep neck infections are more commonly caused by inflammation of the throat and lymph nodes.

Access the study here.

How does a tooth infection affect the neck?

Tooth-related infections can quickly affect the neck. For example, a root canal infection or inflammation of the tooth's supporting tissues can spread to the neck area through lymphatics or blood vessels, causing serious complications. Tooth infections must be treated correctly and promptly to prevent them from spreading.

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