Ignoring Oral Hygiene Can Be Fatal: Mouth Bacteria Puts A Woman On Ventilator

Most of us ignore oral hygiene, and visit a dentist only when the pain becomes unbearable. This can be dangerous as 26-year old Mala from Bangalore found out. Employee of a B School and a trainer at a gym Mala ignored her cavities and was on a ventilator for 2 months. The 6 month old incident has brought oral hygiene in sharp focus. It’s a lesson why we need to brush our teeth at least twice a day and visit a dentist regularly.

Mala ignored cavities
After facing near-death, Mala recounts her ordeal, “I had a lot of cavities and didn’t bother to take care of them. It hit me only when I lost speech, couldn’t lie down and wasn’t even able to swallow water. It’s a rebirth for me.” Initially Mala started taking painkillers thinking that swelling and pain would go. It didn’t help. Pain spread and the infection blocked her throat and she could not eat, drink or speak. What Mala thought was just an ordinary toothache, resulted in three small heart attacks and multiple organ dysfunction.

Diagnosis was difficult
After complications Mala was taken to a local hospital and admitted. When the situation worsened she was taken to Fortis Hospital. There doctors found that her vital organs had got infected and was suffering from pneumonia. She was put on a ventilator. Dr Sudha Menon, Consultant (Internal Medicine) at Fortis says, “Mala was running high fever, had low BP, and was looking toxic, when she was brought to the emergency unit of Fortis.” Initially she was suspected to be suffering from dengue or H1N1, but the test results were negative.

Dangerous mouth bacteria
Dr Menon adds, “She would improve a bit and worsen again. There was a shower of bacteria on her lungs and fluids in the lungs started accumulating around her heart. Besides, there was a clot in a vein that connects the heart, head and the neck region. Oral hygiene was compromised, leading to the spreading of anaerobic bacteria.” Eventually doctors concluded that Mala had Lemierre’s syndrome. This is caused by bacteria Fusobacterium necrophorum commonly found in the mouth. After mouth the bacteria infected the blood and through blood most organs got infected.

Doctors warn
Doctors say that people should not ignore toothache and cavities, and that infection in mouth is just like any other infection. Doctors warn that if infection is not attended to it can spread to other parts of the body as in the case of Mala. Mala, on the other hand, has been discharged but is still grappling with her dental problems.

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