CAN DENTAL INFECTION SPREAD TO THE HEAD OR BRAIN?

The anatomy of the head and facial blood vessels allows for blood to flow in either direction as there are no valves in these vessels. This design helps to keep the brain alive in case of head/face trauma and/or head/face vessel blockage (such as a blood clot or a lesion). The point is, that the blood flow can reverse if needed to keep the brain nourished and oxygenated. It is a fabulous design! A concern is that this same system that can be a life-saver in the case of a blockage, can be a liability in the case of a severe facial infection such as an abscessed tooth (odontogenic infection). (J Oral Maxillofac Surg 79:389-397, 2021)

Infection along with swelling, inflammation, and possible vascular blockage – can result in germs traveling in the reverse direction from the face, mouth, or neck areas and ending up infecting the brain with possible intracranial infection and even death. We see case reports of this rarely, but it does occur.

The bottom line is that we should never take these infections lightly. Proper early open incision and drainage along with antibiotic therapy can be a life-saver. Do not be satisfied with “going on an antibiotic and seeing how it goes”. We are here for you!