A young California truck driver and father of two is making headlines after he suddenly died as the result of complications from a toothache.
Vadim Kondratyuk Anatoliyevich first complained of a toothache two weeks ago, when he was on a routine work trip to New York, according to a GoFundMe page set up for his family. He stopped in Oklahoma and was seen by a dentist, who looked at the infection, cleaned it, and gave him antibiotics. He continued driving and felt better, but when he arrived in New York, he was in pain again and his mouth became swollen.
Anatoliyevich’s brother Miroslav met up with him to help him drive home faster, and noticed at one point that Vadim was having trouble breathing and couldn’t stand up. Then in Utah, Miroslav drove his brother to the nearest hospital, where doctors said they “made it just in time.” The infection from Anatoliyevich’s tooth had progressed and spread to the rest of his body. His lungs had fluid in them, and he couldn’t breathe on his own.
Anatoliyevich’s wife, Nataliya, told KTLA5 that she received a call from her husband’s doctor, saying Vadim was gravely ill. “The doctor said, ‘Tonight is the night he’s going to die, because we did everything we can and nothing seems to work.’ It’s just the bacteria and the infection keeps growing to his lungs and they can’t clean it out,” she said. Eventually, his heart stopped beating. He died on Jan. 30 at the age of only 26. According to Nataliya, her husband had diabetes but was otherwise healthy.
The story is tragic and scary, and Dr. Susan Maples, author of Blabber Mouth! 77 Secrets Only Your Mouth Can Tell You to Live a Healthier, Happier, Sexier Life, tells Yahoo Beauty that dental infections can lead to serious health complications more often than you might think.
Unlike your mouth, your lungs are a sterile cavity, she explains. When bacteria from your mouth gets into your lungs, it can replicate quickly and cause a serious infection like pneumonia — and this can happen as a result of a tooth infection or gum disease. Dr. Martha Cortes of Cortes Advanced Dentistry tells Yahoo Beauty that people can actually breathe in pathogenic biofilms from their mouth into their lungs, where they can create an infection. “I’ve seen people get lung issues because of an infection in their mouth,” she says. “Periodontal disease is a big deal.”
It’s not just lungs that are a concern: Maples notes that bacteria from dental infections can get into your bloodstream and affect various organs, including your heart.
Dr. Mark S. Wolff, a professor and chair of the Department of Cardiology and Comprehensive Care at the New York University College of Dentistry, tells Yahoo Beauty that dental infections can even affect your brain and cause abscesses there. “It’s important for people to recognize that it’s not just a tooth — there are a lot of risks of the infection spreading elsewhere,” he says.
That’s why Wolff recommends that people see a dentist ASAP if they notice they have any swelling in their mouth. “Anything that hurts when you press your finger on the outside of your gums, see the dentist,” he says.
Cortes adds it’s crucial to regularly brush your teeth, floss, and follow good dental hygiene.
Most gum disease and periodontal infections, including cavities, don’t hurt which, is why Maples says it’s so important to routinely see your doctor. “Your dentist is able to find these problems before they get out of hand and treat them as needed,” she says.
Of course, most people can develop a tooth or gum infection and won’t die from it, Maples says, but if your immune system is compromised, it could develop into a more serious problem.
Adds Cortes: “These complications can happen. It’s creepy.”