UAE: Pakistani expat delays dental treatment, develops life-threatening infection

He developed Ludwig Angina, a rare bacterial infection causing abnormal neck swelling and breathlessness

by

SM Ayaz Zakir

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Published: Fri 24 Mar 2023, 10:57 AM

Last updated: Fri 24 Mar 2023, 10:28 PM

Nasir Irfan Muhammad, a 27-year-old Pakistani expat, had never imagined that he could develop a life-threatening infection by putting off treatment for a tooth infection named Ludwig Angina.

A rare bacterial infection that spreads rapidly from an abscessed tooth, Ludwig Angina causes abnormal neck swelling and breathlessness.


Two weeks since symptoms began

Muhammed started experiencing a minor toothache in the first week of February. “I ignored it and tried home remedies to fight the pain. A few days later, the toothache worsened, and noticed swelling in my neck,” said Muhammed.

The next day, Nasir consulted a dentist near his house in Qusais. He was diagnosed with a severe tooth infection and was prescribed medicines.


“Though I started taking medicines, there was no respite from pain. Rather my difficulties aggravated, and I started experiencing breathing difficulties,” said Muhammed.

When the pain worsened, he was rushed to Aster Hospital, Mankhool, by his friends.

“I was totally scared. I have never seen or heard of a toothache getting so worse. There was swelling in my neck, and I could not open my mouth or feed anything. Swallowing food was also difficult. When I started experiencing breathing difficulty, I realised this was very serious. I was gasping for breath. That’s when I told my friends, and they took me to the hospital,” said Muhammed.

At the hospital, he was attended to by Dr Renju Prem, a specialist in oral and maxillofacial surgery and Dr M D Ashraf Reza, a specialist ENT surgeon. They asked for a CT scan which revealed a severe accumulation of pus in multiple neck compartments narrowing the airway.

The doctors said that Muhammed had been experiencing tooth pain for about two weeks when he reached the hospital. By this time, his tooth infection had aggravated, affecting the entire floor of the mouth to the respiratory tract.

“A lot of pus had accumulated in the airway, causing him breathing difficulty. This led to inflammation in the neck. If delayed, it could have even taken a toll on his life,” said Dr Renju.

“We had to drain the pus and treat the tooth infection to relieve his pain. So, we immediately shifted him for an emergency procedure and drained the pus. The procedure was successful, and his condition improved in a few days. Muhammed could open his mouth, and swallow food and fluids by the time he left the hospital. He was discharged on the fifth day post-surgery," said Dr Renju.

'Don't take oral health lightly'

Dr Renju warned that this should be a lesson and that people should not neglect oral health.

"When it comes to toothache and similar infections, patients are likely to delay consultation and try home remedies to reduce the pain. They seek medical care when the pain becomes unbearable for them. People must understand that a toothache or oral infection, if left untreated, could lead to serious complications, even life-threatening ones, in rare situations," added the doctor.

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