What to Do if You Have Dental Cellulitis

When you develop a gum infection, sometimes it will resolve with relatively few problems. However, if the infection is allowed to develop, it may progress to facial cellulitis.

As a serious infection, facial cellulitis is always a dental emergency. By learning more about what it is and how to respond to it, you could prevent a major dental disaster.

How Dental Cellulitis Develops

All cases of dental cellulitis stem from a dental infection. This can mean gum disease that's gone untreated, a chipped tooth that's allowed bacteria in or an abscess that you didn't seek treatment for. 

Usually, dental cellulitis starts when the infection affects the tip of the tooth root and spreads to the gum. From there, it enters the subcutaneous portion of your skin tissue and begins to spread. As an area of emergency dentistry that requires rapid treatment, you should see your dentist quickly.

Managing the Symptoms of Cellulitis at Home

When your gum infection progresses onto facial cellulitis, the symptoms are quite distinctive. You'll notice pain, redness, and swelling in the affected area, as well as skin that's noticeably hotter than elsewhere.

To manage the pain, try taking ibuprofen or paracetamol. You can also use ice packs, which will reduce some of the swelling and make the pain less pronounced. Avoid using heat packs, as they may encourage the infection to spread elsewhere.

What Your Dentist Can Do

How your dentist treats cellulitis will depend on your signs and symptoms. If you have signs of cellulitis but you're mostly systemically stable, you may be able to take antibiotics by mouth at home for 10 to 14 days. It's important that you finish the full course. If you stop your antibiotics when your symptoms get better, there's a risk that any latent bacteria will start to grow again and the infection will return.

At the point of starting your treatment, your dentist may assess you for systemic signs of infection. This includes taking your temperature, measuring your pulse rate, and taking your blood pressure. If it looks as though your infection is systemic, they may recommend that you receive IV antibiotics in a hospital setting. IV antibiotics act faster and by receiving medical supervision, you'll remain safe.

Whether you receive IV or oral antibiotics, your emergency dentist will also tackle the original cause of the infection. To prevent further infection, it's important to manage your oral health and hygiene carefully going forward.