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  • Writer's pictureGaby

What is a Dental Fistula & How To Check For Them

A dental fistula, also known as a dental abscess (infection), is a connection between the root of a tooth and the surrounding tissues. It is typically the result of a bacterial infection that has spread from the tooth's pulp (the innermost part of the tooth) to the surrounding tissues. One distinctive feature of a dental fistula is the formation of a small channel or tract that connects the abscess to the surface of the skin or mucous membrane(gum). This channel allows the pus to drain out, relieving some of the pressure and reducing symptoms. The draining tract may appear as a pimple-like bump on the gums, which can release a foul-tasting and smelling fluid. The pus that accumulates in the abscess is a mixture of dead white blood cells, tissue debris, and bacteria.

The implications of a dental fistula can be significant and may include the following:

Pain and Discomfort:

Dental fistulas are often associated with pain and discomfort, which can range from mild to severe. The pain may be persistent or intermittent and can be exacerbated by activities such as chewing or biting.

Swelling and Inflammation:

The infection that causes a dental fistula can lead to swelling and inflammation in the affected area. This may result in a visible lump or swelling on the gum, which can be tender to the touch.

Pus Drainage:

One of the characteristic signs of a dental fistula is the presence of pus drainage. Pus may drain from the fistula opening, which can have a foul taste and odor. The drainage is a sign that the body is attempting to contain and eliminate the infection.

Systemic Infection:

If the infection is left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body, leading to a systemic infection. This can result in more serious health complications and may require medical intervention.

Tooth Mobility and Loss:

The infection can cause damage to the supporting structures of the affected tooth, including the bone. This can lead to increased tooth mobility and, in severe cases, may result in tooth loss.

Spread of Infection:

The infection can potentially spread to neighboring teeth or upwards towards the eyes, leading to the development of multiple dental fistulas or abscesses. This can further complicate the oral health situation.

Facial Swelling and Cellulitis:

In severe cases, the infection may lead to facial swelling and cellulitis, which is a bacterial skin infection. This can cause a person's face to become visibly swollen, and it may be accompanied by pain and redness.

Systemic Health Impact:

Chronic dental infections, if not properly addressed, can have implications for systemic health. There is evidence suggesting a link between oral health and conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

If you suspect you have a dental fistula, it is crucial to see a dentist promptly for an evaluation and appropriate treatment. In addition to a clinical examination, your dentist may use the following methods to diagnose a dental fistula:

X-rays: X-rays can help identify the source of the infection, such as a dental abscess or infected tooth.

Percussion Testing: Gently tapping on the teeth to evaluate sensitivity and identify the affected tooth.

Probing: Using a dental probe to check for pockets of infection and measure the depth of any gum pockets.

Once diagnosed, the treatment may involve:

  1. Antibiotics: To control the infection.

  2. Incision & Drainage: Draining the abscess to remove pus and alleviate pressure.

  3. Root Canal Treatment: If the infection is associated with a tooth, a root canal may be performed to remove the infected pulp.

  4. Tooth Extraction: In severe cases, if the tooth cannot be saved, extraction may be necessary.

It's essential to regularly (while brushing teeth) look in your kids mouth and check to make sure all the soft tissue and mucosa looks normal (absence of fistula). Consult with a dental professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment tailored to your specific situation. Ignoring dental infections can lead to more severe health issues, so seeking prompt dental care is crucial.


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