Brent Cornelius Dentistry
Brent Cornelius Dentistry
Tips and advice for optimum hygiene and a stellar dental practice.
Brent Cornelius

When Sepsis Strikes After a Tooth Extraction

10/31/2014 12:24:13 PM   |   Comments: 3   |   Views: 43710

When it comes to having one or more teeth extracted, be aware that you could gain something unwanted as a result of the extraction: an infection known as septicemia, which could turn into a very serious infection known as sepsis.

While rare after a tooth extracton, sepsis does occur and it’s serious enough that patients always should be aware that it could crop up.

The infection may present after a tooth extraction due to an abscessed or diseased tooth.

If septicemia isn’t treated properly, sepsis could result and sepsis can be fatal. A severe form of sepsis could be the systemic inflammatory response – plus an infection as well as the presentation of organ dysfunction. Sepsis could result in shock and organ failure, possibly leading to death. Once severe sepsis has started, it’s very difficult to reverse.

(Sepsis can occur in other areas of the body, too. It’s one of the top 10 causes of death in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.)

Should you be very worried if you’re scheduled for a single tooth extraction? No. If septicemia occurs, it usually does so from a tooth extraction when your tooth was infected before the extraction.

Septicemia that occurs in patients after a tooth extraction (when the tooth wasn’t abscessed) usually does so because the patient didn’t follow the dentist’s post-operative care instructions carefully. (Another reason to follow your dentist’s instructions to the letter.) The frail elderly, those with dementia or another cognitive condition should never be asked to perform post-operative care on their mouth after a tooth extraction without help. If a parent, older family member or elderly friend will be having a tooth pulled, consider offering to stay with the person for a few days to monitor the individual’s post-operative care.

Your mouth is going to hurt/ache for a time after a tooth extraction. This is normal and expected. So how can you tell if what is normal has moved to something more serious, such as sepsis?


A sore or achy mouth near your tooth extraction site is to be expected post-op; it’s when it doesn’t get better after about 24 hours that can be sign that there’s trouble ahead.


General sepsis symptoms include:

  • Having a body temperature greater than 101 degrees F or less than 96.8 degrees F.
  • Having a respiratory (breathing) rate of more than 20 breaths a minute.
  • Having a heart rate that’s higher than 90 beats a minute.

Your infection has progressed to what is known as severe sepsis if you exhibit some of the following symptoms (these are signs that one or more of your organs are failing):

  • An abrupt change in your mental status.
  • A significantly decreased urine output.
  • A decrease in your platelet count.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Abdominal pain.
  • Your heart is pumping abnormally.

If still unchecked, your severe sepsis could turn into septic shock, symptoms of which include all of the symptoms for severe sepsis, plus a blood pressure reading that is extremely low and which doesn’t respond to fluid replacement.

Regardless, if your mouth stays sore for more than a day, if pain worsens, if your gums become extremely tender, red and swollen (particularly around your infection site), or if you develop a fever, contact your dentist immediately!  If your symptoms are severe, skip the dentist and get to a physician or hospital emergency room ASAP.


Photo courtesy of marcolm/


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