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Aust Dent J. 2005 Dec;50(4 Suppl 2):S74-81.

Severe odontogenic infections.

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Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Adelaide.



Severe odontogenic infections are serious potentially lethal conditions. Following the death of a patient in the authors' institution this study was initiated to determine the risk factors, management and outcome of a consecutive series of patients.


All patients admitted to the Royal Adelaide Hospital under the care of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Unit with odontogenic infections in calendar year 2003 were investigated. Detailed information relative to their pre-presentation history, surgical and anaesthetic management and outcome was obtained and analysed.


Forty-eight patients, 32M, 16F, average age 34.5, range 19 to 88 years were treated. All presented with pain and swelling, with 21 (44 per cent) having trismus. Forty-four (92 per cent) were as a result of dental neglect and four (8 per cent) were regular dental patients having endodontic treatment which failed. Of those known to have been treated prior to presentation, most had been on antibiotics. Most patients had aggressive surgical treatment with extraction, surgical drainage, high dose intravenous antibiotics and rehydration. The hospital stay was 3.3 (range 1-16) days. Patients requiring prolonged intubation and high dependency or intensive care (40 per cent) had longer hospitalization. No patient died and all fully recovered.


Severe odontogenic infections are a serious risk to the patient's health and life. Management is primarily surgical with skilled anaesthetic airway management. Antibiotics are required in high intravenous doses as an adjunct and not as a primary treatment.

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