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Death from a Tooth Infection

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I need some advice. I have a tooth ache and need to leave town for a family vacation. Can I just take some antibiotics with me on the trip and get treated when I get back? We leave in a few days for three weeks. I don’t want to mess up the kid’s fun.


Dear Olivia,

Woman holding her jaw in pain.

I can tell that you really care about your children. Just like sometimes you have to be very stern with them, I am going to be a bit stern here. Do not go on vacation without getting this dealt with. The truth is people still die from tooth infections and it is completely preventable. There is an article in the National Library of Medicine that discusses a study done on this very topic. From 2000-2008, 66 people died from tooth infections. That is a little over eight people per year.

Most of these do not garner any attention in the media. However, in 2017 there was a particularly tragic, interstate case that did make the news. A Sacramento truck driver had a toothache. He was a 26-year-old father of two. When he left California for his long haul, he had a toothache. By the time he got to Oklahoma, his tooth hurt so much that he found a dentist who would see emergency dental patients. Unfortunately, this dentist just gave him some antibiotics and sent him on his way. He felt better for a while, then it got worse. By the time he got to New York, his face was swollen and he was in so much pain he couldn’t drive. His brother flew to New York to drive him home. In Utah, his breathing became labored. He was in such bad condition that his brother took him to a nearby hospital, which then air flighted him to Salt Lake City. The infection had spread to his lungs. Though the hospital tried everything, they were ultimately unsuccessful. His wife was called and she was able to get there in time to say goodbye.

Antibiotics can only temporarily hold off a tooth infection. When it returns, and it will return, it is even stronger. There are only two ways to really deal with a tooth infection. The first is with a root canal treatment. This has the benefit of saving your natural tooth. The second option is to extract the tooth. This will mean you will need to replace the tooth. If it comes to that, I recommend a dental implant. However, before your vacation, the priority is getting the infection dealt with. Most dentists reserve some room in their schedule for emergency dental appointments such as yours. If your dentist does not I would call around and find one who will fit you in. I’m confident you will find one. I even think you can get this taken care of before you’re scheduled to leave if you take action right away.

This blog is brought to you by Arnold, MD Dentist Dr. Meredith Esposito.