Osteomyelitis of the jaw is a serious infection of the jawbone. It occurs when bacteria or other germs enter into the jawbone and cause inflammation and swelling. Osteomyelitis can lead to a range of symptoms, including pain, swelling, redness, and tenderness in the affected area, as well as difficulty opening the mouth, fever, and fatigue. It will often manifest as a big bump or knot on a patient’s jaw near the site of the infection, and this bump may be as big as a golf ball or even a lemon.
The most common cause of osteomyelitis of the jaw is dental procedures that result in the introduction of bacteria into the jawbone, such as extractions, implant placement, and periodontal surgery. However, it can also occur as a result of injury, radiation therapy, or other underlying medical conditions.
Treatment for osteomyelitis of the jaw typically involves antibiotics to clear the infection and surgery to remove any dead or infected bone. In severe cases, a jawbone transplant may be necessary to restore proper function. Often times, the bone material may be transplanted from another part of the patient’s body, like the hip bone. This bone material can be used to fill in the gap where the section of the infected jaw had to be removed.
Early diagnosis and treatment of osteomyelitis are critical to avoiding complications and achieving a good outcome. If you are experiencing symptoms of osteomyelitis of the jaw, it's important to seek medical attention immediately to receive an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
How Can You Develop Osteomyelitis from Dental Procedures?
As we discussed above, osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone and bone marrow that is caused by bacteria. Obviously, the mouth is full of bacteria. However, osteomyelitis resulting from dental procedures is relatively rare but incredibly serious.
Osteomyelitis from dental procedures will typically occur when bacteria from an oral infection spread to the bone. The more serious cases of osteomyelitis occur when a dentist or oral surgeon fractures the patient’s jaw during an extraction and the patient is sent home with an untreated fracture. Thereafter, the bacteria dig in and infect the inside of the patient’s jaw at the point of the fracture.
Some factors that can increase the risk of developing osteomyelitis from dental procedures include:
- Dental procedures that involve the extraction of a tooth or the placement of a dental implant, which can damage the surrounding tissue and increase the risk of infection;
- The presence of underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes or a weakened immune system, that make an individual more susceptible to infections;
- Poor oral hygiene, which can increase the risk of oral infections and the spread of bacteria to the bone.
If you have recently undergone a dental procedure and are experiencing symptoms such as pain, swelling, redness, heat, or drainage at the site of the procedure, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. An early diagnosis and prompt treatment of osteomyelitis can help prevent complications and promote healing.
Treatment of osteomyelitis may involve antibiotics to clear the infection, and it may also involve surgical intervention to remove infected or dead tissue. Regardless, if the infection is left untreated, the condition can quickly become much more severe than if treated early.