Sepsis infection

What is Sepsis?

A normal mouth will contain a large number of bacteria, many of them are potentially pathogenic. In a healthy patient there is usually no problem as your immune system protects you frommany illnesses and infections. However, it is possible for your immune system to go into hyperdrive in response to an infection. When this happens the chemicals in your immune system release into your bloodstream to fight an infection but cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead. This is known as Sepsis. It is a life-threatening illness. Sever cases of Sepsis can lead to a medical emergency, Septic Shock.

Generally, there are three stages to Sepsis:

  • Sepsis
  • Severe Sepsis
  • Septic Shock

It is vital for you to seek immediate medical attention if you ever have any of the following symptoms. The earlier you seek treatment, the greater your chance of survival is. You must have two of these symptoms before your GP or Dentist can diagnose Sepsis:

  •  A fever above 38C or a temperature below 36C
  • A heart rate above 90 beats per minute
  • A breathing rate higher that 20 breaths per minute
  • A probable or confirmed infection. In the case of dentistry this could be triggered by an oral infection

Contact dentist immediately if you have any of the following signs:

  • bad breath
  • hyper-sensitive teeth to hot or cold temperatures
  • constant toothache/pain which comes and goes
  • swollen gums
  • swollen glands
  • bitter taste in the mouth
  • fever
  • pain
  • headaches/sinus pain

Severe Sepsis occurs when there is organ failure. You must have one or more of the following signs to be diagnosed with Severe Sepsis:

  • Patches of discoloured skin
  • Decreased urination
  • Changes in Mental Ability
  • Low Platelet (blood clotting cells) count
  • Problems in breathing
  • Abnormal heart beating
  • Feeling cold due to a fall in body temperature
  • Unconsciousness
  • Suffering from spells of extreme weakness

Symptoms of Septic Shock will include those for Severe Sepsis, combined with very low blood pressure.


The effects of Sepsis

Sepsis if left untreated has the potential to be life-threatening. There is a high rate of recovery in mild cases. So, it is important to be treated as soon as the symptoms are recognised. Caught early, the outcomes are excellent. Left unchecked, the patient is likely to spiral into multi-organ failure, septic shock and death. It is estimated that, every year, sepsis costs the NHS £2 billion and claims the lives of at least 52,000 people in the UK and 6 million people around the world.

A case of having Severe Sepsis will increase the risk of a future infection. Severe Sepsis or Septic Shock can also cause further complications in the form of blood clots throughout the body. These clots will block the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs and other parts of the body. Thereby increasing the risk of organ failure and gangrene.

What causes Sepsis?

Any infection can trigger Sepsis, but the following types of infections are more likely:

  • Pneumonia
  • Abdominal
  • Kidney
  • Bloodstream (oral)

Who is at risk for Sepsis?

  • Some people have a higher risk than others, but anyone can contract Sepsis. People who have a greater risk include:
  • Young children and OAPs
  • People with weaker immune systems for example due to HIV or Chemotherapy Treatment
  • People being treated in an intensive care unit
  • People exposed to invasive devices, such as intravenous catheters or breathing tubes

Can you recover from Sepsis?

Your recovery from Sepsis depends on the severity of your condition and any pre-existing conditions you might have. Many people who survive will recover completely whilst others report lasting effects. The UK Sepsis Trust reports that it can take up to 18 months before you feel like your normal old self.

Sepsis prevention

By taking steps to prevent the spread of infection you can reduce your risk of developing Sepsis by:

  • Stay up to date with your vaccinations, e.g. flu, and pneumonia
  • Practise good hygiene. To include proper care of wounds, hand washing and bathing regularly

Practise good oral hygiene to include:

a)    Visit your dentist at least twice a year for Hygienist cleaning and Dental check-ups

b)    Understand your own oral hygiene requirements.

c)    Examine your teeth regularly will help to prevent dental cavities and tooth decay

d)    Regularly remove the bacteria that live in your mouth, which in turn can stick to your teeth to cause cavities by brushing twice a day (2 minutes) and flossing and using inter-dental brushes once a day.

e)    Use a fluoride toothpaste to stop and prevent tooth decay and fillings

f)     Avoid tongue and cheek piercings

g)    Do not put up, for any length of time with an abscess in your mouth, call us immediately

h)   Contact the Surbiton Smile Centre immediately, if you are in pain directly after any form of dental treatment

i)     Take immediate action if you have any damaged tooth, sore or swollen gum, any form of toothache, or restriction in the opening of your mouth as these could be a sign of an infection.

j) Seek immediate care if you develop signs of infection. The sooner you obtain treatment the better the outcome will be.

Emergency examination procedure for Sepsis

At the Surbiton Smile Centre, we will give you a full dental examination followed by the use of X-rays (both small and large areas of the mouth) and a CT-scan if required.

The following aspects of your mouth will be investigated:

  • Teeth
  • Gums
  • TMJ
  • Submandibular Glands

If our Dentist manages to find the problem quickly then a diagnosis will be offered together with the appropriate cause of action/treatment.

In the rare case that our Dentist cannot help you at the Surbiton Smile Centre, then you will be referred immediately to Hospital for a proper in-depth medical investigation.

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