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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