Cervicofacial actinomycosis following third molar removal: case-series and review

Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2021 Mar;25(1):119-125. doi: 10.1007/s10006-020-00896-x. Epub 2020 Aug 20.


Actinomycosis is an opportunistic infection caused by bacteria of the Actinomyces spp., commonly A. israelii. These are non-pathogenic commensals in the mouth, gut, and female genital tract. An infection may arise following trauma or surgery, such as tooth extraction. More than half of cases of actinomycosis occur in the perimandibular area and are termed cervicofacial actinomycosis. Initially, the infection develops as a painful, rapidly progressive swelling. The lesion may then indurate and is often painless while the overlying skin discolors red to purple-blue. Prolonged treatment with antibiotics and surgery are often required for resolution, unless treatment is promptly started. However, diagnosis may be delayed or missed because of difficult bacterial culturing and frequent confusion with malignancy and other infections. This case study describes six patients who developed cervicofacial actinomycosis following third molar extraction. The purpose of this study is to inform clinicians on this stubborn and deceitful disease entity and to highlight the importance of clinical recognition for quick resolution with minimal morbidity.

Keywords: Actinomyces; Actinomycosis; Cervicofacial actinomycosis; Extraction; Infection; Third molar.

MeSH terms

  • Actinomycosis* / diagnosis
  • Actinomycosis* / drug therapy
  • Actinomycosis* / etiology
  • Actinomycosis, Cervicofacial* / diagnosis
  • Actinomycosis, Cervicofacial* / drug therapy
  • Actinomycosis, Cervicofacial* / etiology
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molar, Third / surgery
  • Tooth Extraction / adverse effects


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents