A 31 year-old man from Cincinnati, Ohio, has died due to complications from a tooth infection, according to a report by Cincinnati news station WLWT.
John Schneider reportedly mistook his discomfort for a sinus infection, opting to forgo treatment due to cost.
By the time he did seek treatment, the infection from his tooth had caused him to become septic. The bacteria from the tooth had infected his blood and started shutting down his organs.
John underwent open-heart surgery but unfortunately died the next day.
“He didn’t plan to go to the hospital and die. He planned to get antibiotics and go home that same day,” said John’s mother, Aloha Schneider in an interview with WLWT. “He never came home.”
And unfortunately, John’s story is not unique. There have been many reports of lives cut short due to treatable oral health problems. Tragedies like this underscore the importance of regular dental checkups, which can help detect problems early on so they may be treated before they become life threatening.
When you consider that there is quite often less than 1/8 inch of tissue between teeth and the maxillary sinus, it’s not hard to imagine why John mistook his tooth infection for a sinus infection. It has been estimated that 10%-12% of maxillary sinus infections are of odontogenic origin. Some reports indicate this number could be considerably higher.
In a recent case study in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Dan Sindelar performed 100 free screenings of individuals that had been suffering from what they thought were chronic sinus infections. All had been cleared by a physician prior to the screening and most had been cleared by an ENT.
“75% of them had failing upper molars, either with broken down, decayed, abscessed, secondary abscessed, or split teeth that the patient was unaware of,” said Dr. Sindelar. “What is assumed by the patient to be a sinus infection quite often is a symptom, not an actual sinus condition.”
So, from an oral-systemic perspective, what is the takeaway?
Dr. Sindelar explained: “I was astonished when one of my referring ENTs said that he regularly sees mounds of inflamed granulation tissue on the floor of the sinus above teeth that looked suspicious.”
For this reason, Dr. Sindelar stresses the importance of integrated, coordinated care between medical and dental professionals. “It has never been more important for the dental and medical communities to align and integrate for the improved health of our patients.”