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Ludwig angina

Submandibular space infection; Sublingual space infection

Ludwig angina is an infection of the floor of the mouth under the tongue. It is due to a bacterial infection of the teeth or jaw.

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Causes

Ludwig angina is a type of bacterial infection that occurs in the floor of the mouth, under the tongue. It often develops after an infection of the roots of the teeth (such as tooth abscess) or a mouth injury.

This condition is uncommon in children.

Symptoms

The infected area swells quickly. This may block the airway or prevent you from swallowing saliva.

Symptoms include:

Other symptoms that may occur with this disease:

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will do an exam of your neck and head to look for redness and swelling of the upper neck, under the chin.

The swelling may reach to the floor of the mouth. Your tongue may be swollen or pushed up to top of your mouth.

You may need a CT scan.

A sample of the fluid from the tissue may be sent to the lab to test for bacteria.

Treatment

If the swelling blocks the airway, you need to get emergency medical help right away. A breathing tube may needed to be placed through your mouth or nose and into the lungs to restore breathing. You may need to have surgery called a tracheostomy that creates an opening through the neck into the windpipe.

Antibiotics are given to fight the infection. They are most often given through a vein until symptoms go away. Antibiotics taken by mouth may be continued until tests show that the bacteria have gone away.

Dental treatment may be needed for tooth infections that cause Ludwig angina.

Surgery may be needed to drain fluids that are causing the swelling.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Ludwig angina can be life threatening. It can be cured with getting treatment to keep the airways open and taking antibiotic medicine.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Breathing difficulty is an emergency situation. Go to the emergency room or call your local emergency number (such as 911) right away.

Call your provider if you have symptoms of this condition, or if symptoms do not get better after treatment.

Prevention

Visit the dentist for regular checkups.

Treat symptoms of mouth or tooth infection right away.

Related Information

Cellulitis
Tooth abscess
CPR
Sepsis
Septic shock

References

Christian JM, Goddard AC, Gillespie MB. Deep neck and odontogenic infections. In: Flint PW, Haughey BH, Lund V, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 10.

Hupp WS. Diseases of the mouth. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2019. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:969-975.

Melio FR. Upper respiratory tract infections. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 65.

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Review Date: 2/27/2019  

Reviewed By: Josef Shargorodsky, MD, MPH, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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