If you have a dental infection, or an abscessed tooth, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics. While taking a full course of oral antibiotics will usually eliminate your infection, they may not address other serious manifestations of an abscess. Here are three ways your dental infection may lead to an emergency situation, and what you can do about them:
Cranial Nerve Involvement
Certain dental infections can spread to your cranial nerves, leading to damage and inflammation. Depending on which cranial nerve is involved, you may develop numbness, tingling, severe pain, or burning sensations in your face, loss of taste, diminished smell perception, or vision problems.
While not all of these symptoms may require emergency treatment, severe facial pain, loss of vision, or total loss of your sense of smell or taste may be indicative of severe neurological deficits.
Although infection-related cranial nerve involvement typically resolves once the dental infection has cleared, it may take weeks or months before the nerves repair themselves. At the first sign of a dental infection, see an emergency dentist who will quickly implement an effective treatment plan to help reduce your risk for complications.
A dental abscess can lead to systemic inflammation. While this type of inflammation gradually subsides after your have completed your antibiotics, it may be slow to resolve. Not only can systemic inflammation cause muscle and joint pain, it can also heighten your risk for heart attack and stroke because it can cause inflammation of your heart or inside your coronary arteries.
If your dentist or physician believes that you have sustained systemic inflammation as a result of your dental infection, he or she may prescribe corticosteroid medications to help dampen the inflammatory response. If you are unable to take corticosteroids because of an allergy or otherwise, your health care provider may instead recommend that you take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen or aspirin for a specified period of time.
Elevated Blood Sugar
In addition to diabetes, dental infections can also raise blood sugar levels, as can stress, chronic illness, prolonged exercise, poor nutritional status, and certain medications. While a temporary spike in blood sugar levels during times of infection is seldom serious, it may be an emergency situation for people with diabetes.
If you are a diabetic and develop an abscessed tooth, make sure that you closely monitor your blood sugar levels, follow your therapeutic diet, take your medications, and see both your dentist and physician.
If you develop severe tooth pain, see an emergency dentist. The sooner a dental infection is recognized and treated, the less likely you will be to develop any of the above complications related to an oral abscess.