"Lumpy Jaw"

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Actinomycosis and other mycoses

Actinomycosis is an infection primarily caused by the bacterium Actinomyces israelii. This bacterium is normally present in the mouth but can cause disease if it enters tissues following an injury. Actinomyces israelii is an anaerobic bacterium, which means it dislikes oxygen but grows very well in deep tissues where oxygen levels are low.

Infection most often occurs in the face and neck region and is characterized by the presence of a slowly enlarging, hard, red lump. Tooth extraction, tooth disease, root canal treatment, jaw surgery, or poor dental hygiene can allow Actinomyces israelii to cause an infection in the head and neck region.

Actinomycosis is difficult to treat because of its dense tissue location. Surgery is often required to drain the lesion and/or to remove the site of infection. To kill the bacteria, large doses of penicillin are given through a vein daily for two to six weeks followed by six to twelve months of penicillin taken by mouth. Tetracycline, clindamycin, or erythromycin may be used instead of penicillin. The antibiotic therapy must be completed to insure that the infection does not return. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy in combination with the antibiotic therapy has been successful.

Complete recovery is achieved following treatment. If left untreated, the infection may cause localized bone destruction.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy works to improve wound healing by boosting the effectiveness of antibiotics.

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