Ludwig’s angina is a potentially life-threatening bacterial infection that can occur if an infected tooth root, or an abscessed tooth, goes untreated. Ludwig’s angina can take hold beneath the tongue on the floor of the mouth (also known as the sublingual or submandibular space) if root canal treatment is delayed or if dental health care has been neglected. Simple, regularly scheduled dental visits are the key to preventing this serious health emergency. For root canal therapy, see an expert endodontist to avoid dangerous consequences like Ludwig’s angina.
Patients with Ludwig’s angina may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Swelling under the chin and/or on the floor of the mouth.
- Neck and mouth pain and redness.
- Tongue swelling, which brings about:
- Problems swallowing or inability to swallow due to partial throat blockage
- Excessive salivation or drooling, since saliva cannot be swallowed
- Difficulty breathing due to a blocked airway
- Garbled, unclear speech
- Mental confusion
If left untreated, Ludwig’s angina symptoms can lead to:
- Complete inability to breathe
- Systemic (whole body or blood) infection
- Septic shock
Diagnosing Ludwig’s Angina
- A physician or dentist will examine the head and neck areas, checking for visible or palpable symptoms.
- A fluid sample from the affected area below the tongue may be lab tested for bacteria.
- A CT scan may be ordered for detailed views of the mouth, jaw and neck area.
Treatment for Ludwig’s Angina
Antibiotics may be given through a vein initially, with oral antibiotics continuing until bacteria are eliminated.
An endodontist should perform a root canal and other necessary dental treatment to remove the cause of infection.
When to Call 911
Anyone with a blocked airway or trouble breathing must get emergency medical care immediately.
Preventing Ludwig’s Angina
- Treat any suspected dental or mouth infection without delay.
- Get regular dental checkups to catch any impending problems early, before Ludwig’s angina can develop.
- If someone you care for may be avoiding or forgetting to visit the dentist, or may not able to get to the dentist regularly, please remind them, or help them by making arrangements.
Keep in mind that root canals are a technique dependent treatment. In the expert hands of trained endodontists, the overwhelming majority of root canals are successful, permanent and pain free. At Gulf Coast Endodontics, our expert medical staff practices our own brand of patient-centered endodontic care. We’re here for you, so please contact us today.
Neglecting your dental health can be deadly serious. Learn how to avoid Ludwig’s angina in this glossary post from Gulf Coast Endodontics in Houston.