When a serious infection develops around one or more of your teeth, your body forms an abscess to contain the infected material. A tooth abscess is a painful dental condition, but prompt treatment will normally fix the problem. Unfortunately, severe side effects can sometimes occur, including a condition that dentists refer to as Ludwig's angina. Learn what causes this unpleasant condition, and find out what you will need to do to deal with the problem.

How a tooth abscess can lead to Ludwig's angina

If bacteria get into the dental pulp inside a tooth, an infection will often quickly develop. Blood vessels, nerves and connective tissue can all become painful and inflamed, and, left untreated, the infection will normally cause an abscess to form at the root tip.

A tooth abscess won't go away on its own. Over time, the abscess will often slowly grow as more infected material and pus builds up. Without treatment the infection can spread to other parts of your body, including the jaw, neck and even your brain.

If your immune system is weak or you suffer with another serious underlying medical condition, your body will find it harder to fight off the infection that leads to an abscess. Ludwig's angina can develop if you don't seek treatment for a tooth abscess, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to experience this unpleasant problem.

Symptoms of Ludwig's angina

Ludwig's angina takes its name from Carl Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig, a German physiologist whose work gained prominence in the nineteenth century. The condition is a severe skin infection that occurs on the floor of your mouth, just underneath the tongue. Ludwig's angina can occur in patients who have a severe tooth abscess, but the condition can also result from mouth trauma.

Symptoms of Ludwig's angina include:

  • Problems swallowing
  • Drooling
  • Trismus (difficulty opening the mouth)
  • Fever
  • Swollen tongue
  • Earache

As the symptoms worsen, patients suffer a condition called gangrenous cellulitis, where infected soft tissue in the mouth breaks down. Swelling can also increase rapidly, and you can normally see the symptoms in a patient's face. Ludwig's angina can affect anyone, although the infection is generally rare in children, and men are more likely to get the disease than women.

If you suspect the symptoms of Ludwig's angina, you should seek emergency dental treatment at a place like Runcorn Dental straight away. While the condition is relatively rare, Ludwig's angina can cause life-threatening symptoms. Without treatment, the swelling associated with Ludwig's angina will eventually block the patient's airways. Around 8 percent of people diagnosed with Ludwig's angina die.


If an emergency dentist suspects Ludwig's angina, he or she will run several tests to confirm the diagnosis. A CT scan will help a doctor or dentist understand how serious the condition is, particularly when it comes to swollen soft tissue. He or she can also look for the originating abscess and any underlying dental disease contributing to the problem.

In serious cases, it's not always possible to carry out these tests straight away. For example, if a patient is having trouble breathing, a dentist or doctor will need to take corrective action straight away. He or she will try to secure the airway, which may result in emergency surgery. In some cases, an emergency dentist may send somebody with serious symptoms straight to the emergency room.

Most patients with Ludwig's angina recover after a course of strong antibiotics. Patients who receive antibiotics within an hour after the first symptoms develop stand the best chance of recovery. In Australia, dentists and doctors normally prescribe penicillin, but other medications are available for people who are hypersensitive to the antibiotic.

People with Ludwig's angina will often spend several days in hospital. Although antibiotics can quickly control the symptoms, the patient will need ongoing monitoring. He or she may also need more treatment. For example, some people need surgery to correct damage to the facial soft tissue.

Ludwig's angina is a rare, but severe medical condition that results in an extremely painful mouth infection. If you see any of the symptoms related to this infection, seek emergency care immediately.