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What Is Ludwig's Angina?

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Practicing good oral hygiene is important if you want to have a winning smile. But it's also essential for you to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, tooth loss, and infections that can lead to more serious health issues like Ludwig's angina. Ludwig's angina is a rare but potentially deadly bacterial infection that usually affects your molars, spreads to the floor of your mouth and your neck, and can close off your airway. If you think you may have Ludwig's angina, you should have it diagnosed and treated by your medical professional immediately. If you're not showing symptoms of Ludwig's angina, you can rest assured that by practicing good oral hygiene and seeing your dental professional for regular visits, you can keep your mouth healthy and infection-free so you can continue smiling.

What Are the Causes of Ludwig’s Angina?

According to a review of studies published in StatPearls, 9 out of 10 cases of Ludwig's angina is caused by an infection in the lower molars that spreads to other areas of the mouth.

Other causes of Ludwig's angina include:

  • An injury or laceration in the floor of your mouth
  • Jawbone fracture
  • An injury to your tongue
  • Oral piercings
  • Bone infection in your jaw
  • Issues with intubation
  • An abscess in the tonsils
  • Salivary gland infection
  • And infected thyroglossal cysts

If left untreated, these conditions can spread the infection to the soft tissues on the floor of your mouth and neck. According to Applied Radiology, pus and gas could cause swelling that closes off your airway within hours. Statistics cited in Statpearls notes that more than 50% of people with Ludwig's angina died before antibiotics were developed. Now, that number is about 8%.

If you have diabetes, cavities, or a weak immune system, you may be at a higher risk of developing this condition.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Ludwig's Angina

If you have Ludwig's angina, your infected tissue will swell, and your neck will likely appear enlarged. You may also experience symptoms like:

  • Pain
  • A sore throat
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A fever
  • And chills

If you are experiencing these symptoms, go to the emergency department right away. The sooner your infection is treated, the greater your likelihood is of survival. To diagnose the infection, a medical professional will evaluate the appearance of the swelling and may take CT scans or blood tests to evaluate the severity of your condition.

Treating Ludwig's Angina

If your medical professional determines you have Ludwig's angina, they will likely utilize one or more of the following techniques to treat your condition:

  • They will administer antibiotics through an IV to get rid of the infection.
  • They may need to extract your infected tooth if they determine that was the cause.
  • They may drain fluid that has collected in the tissue with an incision.
  • They may need to use a breathing tube in your mouth or nose to help you breathe. In severe cases, you may even need to have a surgical procedure called a tracheostomy (a tube placed through a hole in your neck into your windpipe).

Preventing Ludwig's Angina and Other Dental Infections

The best way to prevent infections of any severity is to practice good oral hygiene and take good care of your overall health. Be sure to brush at least twice a day, and don't forget to brush your tongue. Consider using helpful products like an antimicrobial mouthrinse and tongue scrapers. And be sure to see your dental professional for regular appointments – not only to keep your teeth pearly white but to check for any risk factors of infection and disease, too.

Ludwig's angina can be scary, but luckily, seeking medical help early can greatly increase your chances of beating the condition. If you're experiencing symptoms, don't hesitate to get emergency care. And if you're not experiencing symptoms, don't worry; the condition is rare. By practicing good oral hygiene, you'll likely never need to concern yourself with Ludwig's angina. And that's something to smile about.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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