Discussions By Condition: Medical Stories

subcutaneous emphysema

Posted In: Medical Stories 7 Replies
  • Posted By: sbakerw
  • March 30, 2008
  • 01:04 PM

I am a 39 year old female at the lighter end of the healthy weight range. I have what appears to be dental-induced subcutaneous emphysema. It's pretty painful.

Here is my story: Friday afternoon March 28 '08 I had a rather large filling replaced in my lower left very back molar (my wisdom tooth is gone, so the tooth in front of that...). The dentist gave me additional numbing medication when the first application did not fully numb me.

About an hour after I reached home, when touching my very numb, swollen skin along my left jaw line, a crunchy, crackly or bubbly feeling in the tissue beneath the skin was very evident. I thought this was normal. But turns out it is not.

By the next morning (Saturday), I had pain in the upper part of the left side of my neck, and when pressing on the skin on my upper neck, I could feel this same crunchy feeling. By mid afternoon, the pain had advanced down my neck to my collar bone, and the crunchy feeling beneath the skin could be felt in a line all the way down the side of my neck. Additionally, my left ear became painful and I could hear crackling when I opened and closed my mouth.

My husband and my daughter could both feel this same crunchy, bubbly feeling through my skin. Their response was "ew!!" "that's weird!" My daughter said it felt like styrofoam under my skin.

When looking at my face, clearly my left jaw is more swollen than my right.

I was sleepy and in pain, and so called a 24 hour nurse. She told me that this is not a normal reaction to a filling replacement and to call my dentist. If I could not get ahold of him, to go see a doctor.

I left a voicemail on my dentist's home phone. He did not return my call. So I went into an after hours Urgent Care clinic. The doctor there felt my bubbles in my jaw and neck and diagnosed me with subcutaneous emphysema.

He gave me amoxicillin, telling me that perhaps the bubbles are being caused by bacteria. Some bacteria can release bubbles as part of their biological processes. He told me that I should take 2 doses 12 hours apart. He said I should feel somewhat better the next morning, and if I did not feel markedly better in 24 hours (by Sunday around 8:00 pm), that I should go to the emergency room for a reevaluation. I travel out of town every Monday through Thursday and so he wanted to make sure I was seen before I left town.

Now it is Sunday morning (March 30) as I write this, and I have taken one dose last night. This morning the pain in my neck and ear has gotten worse rather than better. I am supposed to take another dose this morning. If by 8:00 tonight I am not improved, I will probably go into the emergency room to be seen again.

I do not know the end of my story, but I wanted to post this on the web somewhere because when I search the web for "subcutaneous emphysema" there is very little information about dental subcutaneous emphysema. I wanted to make sure anybody else who had this problem would be able to hear about my experience. I hope it is helpful for them.

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7 Replies:

  • Follow-up so you can hear the end of the story: Sunday, a physician and friend also felt the crunchies under my neck skin, which was all the way down into the hollow behind my collar bone at that time. He told me that the first doctor had given me the same prescription that he would have. He also told me NOT to get on the airplane the next morning if there was any sign of swelling in the neck or the hollow area behind my collar bone. His concern was that this could indicate that it is moving into my left lung. The air pressure changes could aggravate the problem and possibly make it difficult for me to breathe. Airline attendants are not well equiped to deal with emergencies like that - said he. He also told me that I should see a doctor right away in case of either swelling or shortness of breath. This morning -- Monday, March 31st -- (this ordeal started last Thursday), the pain was greater under my jaw, and I awoke with more bubbles under my jaw than before, however my neck was better and the bubbles in my neck were nearly gone. Now it is midday and the bubbles appear to be gone from both my jaw and neck, except in just a few little spots. I have been taking the medicine as directed and will continue the full 10 days. Also, I did take a plane this morning and sort of wonder if the changes in air pressure actually helped. I really don't know, as I am not a doctor myself. I consider this the end of my story but I will post again if there is any more. I hope this helps someone :)
    sbakerw 1 Replies Flag this Response
  • I have the exact same problem. After I had my wisdom teeth taken out, I feel crackling and popping in my jaw, chest, and neck area. So, what happened in the end? How did you eventually heal? Some information and advice will be much appreciated.
    Anonymous 42789 Replies Flag this Response
  • I have the exact same problem. After I had my wisdom teeth taken out, I feel crackling and popping in my jaw, chest, and neck area. So, what happened in the end? How did you eventually heal? Some information and advice will be much appreciated.
    Anonymous 42789 Replies Flag this Response
  • I have the exact same problem. After I had my wisdom teeth taken out, I feel crackling and popping in my jaw, chest, and neck area. So, what happened in the end? How did you eventually heal? Some information and advice will be much appreciated.Hello... there was not much more to the story, as by Thursday it was gone.I do not know if the antibiotics helped or not. The doctor gave them to me because he said there was a chance that bacteria had gotten into that area and that bacteria might have been producing gas and causing the bubbles. But he did not do any tests to ensure he was right about the bacteria.I am not a doctor, but I was told that if your crackling is just due to air being blown into your tissue, then it is going to absorb on its own with no treatment. However, if it is caused by bacteria that got into your system during the procedure, then antibiotics are needed. Otherwise the bacteria could grow and spread into your lungs and cause problems. At least that is what my doctor told me.
    Anonymous 42789 Replies Flag this Response
  • I have subcutaneous emphysema too. Except that in my case, I'm pretty sure it was caused by my dentist's air-pressure tool. I have the same crackling bubbles under my skin in the left side of my head, in my temple and around it. I feel no pain at all, and my body seems to be absorbing it throughout the days, so it should be gone in a few more days. In all actuallity, I find it rather entretaining, pressing the bubbles and hearing it crunching. xDAnyway, from what I've researched on the Web, this seems to be a rather rare condition. As soon as I realized I had something strange under my skin, I called my dentist, but he couldn't really tell what it was. I had to spend several hours on the internet before I diagnosed myself. xP
    Anonymous 42789 Replies
    • February 8, 2011
    • 09:40 PM
    • 0
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  • I had the crunchiness after throat surgery. My face swelled to several times it's normal size. I went to the ER and they put me in an ambulance to be taken back to Dallas where I had the surgery (90 miles from home). Turns out, my doctor had nicked my airway while doing surgery on my throat. The air had escaped into my throat and chest cavity. The only treatment for me was to spend a week in the hospital on 100% Oxygen. It is a truly creepy feeling when your skin crinkles and feels crunchy inside.
    Anonymous 42789 Replies
    • February 16, 2011
    • 01:39 AM
    • 0
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  • I'm currently having the same thing right now... I had my molar pulled out and I chipped another tooth which I am tending to tomorrow, but I have been having this strange swelling (like a soft lump that turns into this massive angry hard lump on the left side of my temples... And what's weird is that I noticed the left side of my face near (or slightly behind) my jaw is swelling and is really painful. Not a sharp kind of pain, but the annoying kind of dense pain (don't know if I'm explaining it well) but it hurts a lot and the shape of my face looks lopsided and strangely puffy and less carved out than the right side of my face which is smaller and defined. And now I'm also limping around coz my left ankle is super swollen... I don't have any family here with me and I don't have any friends either... So if anybody can offer more info regarding this please or where I can know more about it? It would be highly appreciated.
    Anonymous 1 Replies
    • January 16, 2016
    • 11:30 AM
    • 0
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