It is common for dental infections to spread to other areas outside of the jaw bone such as the upper jaw, sinuses, or the facial structures. When there is a more serious infection the danger is that the spread can extend to the brain or chest where it can kill you. I am often amazed at how quickly this spread can occur and frankly how often people will ignore danger signs and leave a problem untreated until it has caused significant damage. Fortunately, it is rare to die from dental infections, but we have seen it happen. The take home lesson is “don’t take dental infections casually” – they can easily become serious matters. (Decisions in Dentistry January 2019, pgs. 7-11).

The cited article indicated above shows several cases of spread of infection from upper back teeth to the sinuses. This is a common situation for us to deal with, both from the standpoint of diagnosis and treatment, as well as dealing with the sequelae of poor treatment or lack of treatment. The anatomy of teeth for most patients has the teeth/dental structures located in what is fairly thin bone. This allows for easy spread of infection from abscessed teeth to the surrounding structures such as drainage to the mouth (most common), as well as drainage to structures such as the sinuses or fascial spaces (the tissue planes between the muscles and “skin” layers of the face).

We have such wonderful access to advanced surgical procedures as well as antibiotics/medications here in the United States that these problems are very treatable. We are able to even graft and place implants often at the same procedure as we are cleaning up a site. Again, the take home message is do not take dental infections for granted.