What Is Ludwig’s Angina?

What Is Ludwig's Angina?

Even though Ludwig’s angina is a rare bacterial infection of the mouth, you should still know how to identify its signs and seek proper treatment.

Brushing and flossing daily keeps your smile bright and your teeth healthy. But did you know there’s another reason to practice good oral hygiene? It can prevent a rare yet serious bacterial infection in the mouth known as Ludwig’s angina.

Ludwig’s angina typically begins in the lower molars and then spreads to the soft tissues of the mouth underneath the tongue. The infection may also affect the neck and jaw tissues. Having a tooth recently pulled increases the risk of the condition. Trauma to the mouth or jaw, a tonsil abscess, salivary gland infection, or an oral piercing may also cause the bacteria to grow. The chance of developing Ludwig’s angina is extremely low, especially if you take care of your mouth. However, if Ludwig’s angina develops, it requires immediate medical treatment to ward off complications.

Know the symptoms of Ludwig’s angina

Ludwig’s angina is usually traced to the bacteria streptococcus and staphylococcus. The most pronounced symptoms of the infection are swelling along the floor of the mouth, tongue, and neck. You may have a sore throat and trouble swallowing. Fever and chills may accompany the infection, as well.

Because of the swelling in the neck, you may experience breathing problems. If that’s the case, swift treatment can open the airways. You also need quick treatment to prevent more severe complications, such as heart inflammation or sepsis, a life-threatening infection throughout the body.

Such symptoms should not be ignored or downplayed, as they will not go away on their own. Immediate treatment can clear the infection, resolve symptoms, and prevent a potentially fatal situation.

Diagnosing & treating Ludwig’s angina

If your doctor suspects Ludwign’s angina, they will examine your mouth and neck for signs of extreme swelling. Imaging tests, blood tests, and salivary cultures may also be performed to check for bacteria. 

Ludwig’s angina spreads rapidly, so receiving treatment as soon as possible can kill the bacteria and ward off serious complications. Therapies may include:

Opening up the breathing passageways. To help you breathe easier, your doctor may insert a breathing tube through your mouth or nose. A severely blocked airway may require a tracheotomy, which is surgery to insert a breathing tube into the windpipe.

Draining the fluids. Ludwig’s angina can lead to extreme swelling or edema caused by a buildup of fluids in the neck and jaw. To drain the excess fluid in the tissue, a doctor can make an incision through which the fluid escapes. Draining the fluid will ease breathing difficulties.

Killing the infection. Antibiotics through an IV can flush out the infection. You’ll continue on IV antibiotics until the symptoms resolve. You may take oral antibiotics after the IV treatment to ensure the bacteria is completely gone.

Although Ludwig’s angina is exceedingly uncommon, you should see your dentist immediately anytime you experience symptoms of a mouth infection, especially after you’ve had a tooth extracted. Treatment at the onset of symptoms can halt the spread of the infection.

Practice good oral hygiene to prevent an infection from taking hold in your mouth. Brush your teeth twice a day and clean your tongue. Tongue scrapers and antimicrobial mouthwashes can also keep infections at bay. And don’t forget about those twice-yearly dental exams! Those routine trips to the dentist can diagnose and cure the condition in its early stage and keep your mouth clear of infection.

Keep your mouth healthy

Schedule an appointment at Espire’s La Mesa location today! Our highly trained dentists can check your mouth for any signs of an infection and treat it immediately. Don’t live near our La Mesa, CA, office? Find one of our other locations near you.

La Mesa, CA
8555 Fletcher Parkway 
Suite 102 
La Mesa, CA 91942