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

Scientific evidence of the connection between oral infections and overall health is steadily increasing. A recent doctoral dissertation from the University of Turku, in Finland, reveals that poor oral hygiene increases the risk of severe infections in the head and neck area, requiring hospitalization. Simultaneously, it is found that investments in oral health and dental care can reduce the costs, complications, and mortality associated with these infections.

As dental or throat inflammation progresses, deep neck infection often arises as a serious bacterial infection. Treatment typically involves intravenous antibiotics and surgery on the mouth, jaws, and neck area, sometimes requiring intensive care.

Study on severe orofacial and neck infections

In a recent patient study, factors influencing the course of the disease, complications, and microbiology were examined in 277 patients, along with the use of magnetic resonance imaging in emergency neck imaging. The results revealed an increasing problem with neck infections, with the proportion of dental-related infections on the rise.

Findings showed that mortality in head and neck infections occurred in severely ill patients (1.4%), with complications occurring in about a fifth of cases. Magnetic resonance imaging of the neck was found to be a useful and accurate diagnostic method, even during on-call hours.

The study also examined factors exacerbating and preventing head and neck infections. It confirmed the significance of poor oral hygiene and lack of access to dental care as background factors for infections requiring hospitalization. Patients who repeatedly use acute dental services are particularly at risk.

Because cavities and their progression are preventable, investments in good oral health, education, and adequate access to dental care can help reduce the significant costs, complications, and mortality associated with these infections. The study also noted that in children, deep neck infections are more commonly due to throat and lymph node inflammation.

Access the study here.

How can dental infections affect the neck area?

Dental-related infections can rapidly affect the neck area. For instance, root canal infections or inflammation of the tooth’s supporting tissues can spread to the neck area through lymphatic vessels or blood vessels, causing serious complications. Dental infections must be treated properly and promptly to prevent their spread.


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