Dental abscess: A potential cause of death and morbidity

Aust J Gen Pract. 2020 Sep;49(9):563-567. doi: 10.31128/AJGP-02-20-5254.


Background: Dental abscess as an end stage of dental disease is common in the community, and patients with dental abscesses are likely to seek care from their primary health provider. Once the infection has spread beyond the confines of the jaws, there is an increasing risk of airway obstruction and septicaemia. If treated with antibiotics alone, the infection will not resolve and will become progressively worse.

Objective: This article reviews the pathophysiology, demographics and management of severe odontogenic infections. It includes evidence-based studies of a large number of cases treated at a single tertiary hospital.

Discussion: Prompt assessment and referral to a tertiary hospital is required for cases at risk of airway compromise. The morbidity and mortality of cases is presented in this article, with discussion of risk factors and the financial burden on the health system.

MeSH terms

  • Abscess / complications*
  • Abscess / mortality
  • Abscess / therapy
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morbidity / trends
  • South Australia
  • Stomatognathic Diseases / complications*
  • Stomatognathic Diseases / mortality
  • Stomatognathic Diseases / therapy
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents