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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Case Report: Subcutaneous Emphysema and Pneumomediastinum Following Dental Extraction

  • Author(s): Brzycki, Ryan M.
  • et al.
Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license

Introduction: Emergency physicians should be cognizant of complications following common procedures (including dental) and be able to readily care for patients with acute dental pain.

Case Report: A 22-year-old female presented with dental pain and difficulty swallowing that developed 48 hours after she underwent a dental extraction. The physical exam showed an uncomfortable, afebrile female with dysphonia, inability to tolerate secretions, and crepitus over the neck and anterior chest wall.

Discussion: The use of a high-speed dental drill may have caused air to dissect through fascial planes leading to subcutaneous emphysema, or even through deeper planes resulting in pneumomediastinum. It should be noted that subcutaneous emphysema and pneumomediastinum are rare complications of dental procedures.

Conclusion: This case highlights an uncommon but potentially life-threatening complication following a routine dental procedure, which emergency clinicians should be attentive to and able to identify and thereby manage.

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