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Oral Infection Management

Many different kinds of infections can occur around your teeth and gums. Periodontitis, which can be caused by improper oral hygiene as well as some systemic conditions, is an infection of the gums that can spread to surrounding tissue, such as the ligaments supporting the bone, and can cause the destruction of underlying bone.

Other kinds of odontogenic infections (meaning those arising from the teeth) can be caused by wisdom tooth impaction or by infections at a tooth's pulp. Infected areas are inflamed, red and often painful, and may be accompanied by fever. These kinds of infections can cause abscesses (pus-filled swellings) and other kinds of inflammation. Serious oral infections can also cause the throat or tongue to swell, which can result in difficulty in breathing and in opening and closing the mouth.

Treatment

Infections start out localized to a particular place in the mouth, but can then spread to other areas of the gums, as well as to underlying bones or other tissues if left untreated. A dentist can usually treat localized infections, such as most abscesses, but an infection that has spread or that is very inflamed usually requires the care of an oral surgeon.

Advanced periodontitis may require surgical care. "Flap surgery," which involves surgically lifting the gums, provides a way of cleaning deep underlying plaque deposits. In severe cases, underlying bone that has been partially destroyed must be surgically reshaped. Teeth may need to be extracted if their supportive tissue has been heavily damaged.

Treatment of serious odontogenic infections involves draining any pus that is present, and getting rid of the bacteria. An oral surgeon can drain pus or discharge by making an incision into the infected area and inserting a small tube. The drainage area must be cleaned daily, and must be removed by your oral surgeon. Antibiotics will be prescribed to kill the bacteria. Any infected teeth will have to be extracted. In most cases, infection management can be done on an outpatient basis; if the inflammation is obstructing breathing, in-hospital treatment may be necessary.

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