Prevalence data on severe dental infections is scarce, particularly for low-income countries. Patients with dental abscess complications who presented from September 2020 until December 2020 in two hospitals in Tonkolili District, Sierra Leone, were included into this case series. We report on a total of 20 patients, median age 28 years, with severe complications of dental abscesses, with a mortality rate of 45%. This case series illustrates the severity of the dire consequences of the absence of access to basic dental and oral healthcare.
Background Deficits in global oral health care are paramount, and complications of odontogenic infections constitute a considerable global health problem, particularly in low-income countries. A high mortality rate has been observed for patients who have been admitted with complicated odontogenic infections to our facilities in Tonkolili District, Sierra Leone, although exact data have not been published yet. Data regarding who in this region is at risk and why are lacking. Objective The Dental Abscess Study (DELAY) aims to prospectively investigate morbidity and mortality from complicated dental abscesses and to analyze patients’ characteristics and microbial findings to examine predisposing factors for poor outcomes. In particular, the incidence and the clinical and microbial characteristics of complicated odontogenic infections, as well as the sociodemographic data and comorbidities of affected patients, will be studied to develop improved management algorithms based on circumstance-specific factors. Methods Patients who present with complicated dental infections requiring hospital admission in Masanga Hospital or Lion Heart Medical Centre will be consecutively selected for possible inclusion in the study (starting on September 4, 2021) over a study period of 1 year, and individual routine follow-ups will be conducted at least 3 months after discharge. The results of standardized questionnaires will be obtained, and clinical measurements as well as medical photos will be taken. Standard laboratory tests (eg, full blood count and HIV status tests) will be performed, and pus specimens will be examined. Local treatment guidelines will be adhered to, and data on medical and surgical treatment as well as data on outcomes will be collected. The study results will be reported according to the STROBE (Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology) criteria. Routine follow-ups will take place at 1 and 3 months postdischarge. Results The DELAY protocol was endorsed by the Masanga Medical Research Unit’s Scientific Review Committee on June 16, 2021, and ethical approval was granted on July 5, 2021, by the Sierra Leone National Ethics Committee. The funding of the budgeted study costs was approved by Dental Health International Netherlands in August 2021. The projected start date of data collection was September 4, 2021, and the study period will most likely last for 1 year. As such, data collection is expected to be complete in November 2022. Conclusions The aim of our prospective observational cohort study is to gain more knowledge about complicated odontogenic infections in Tonkolili District, Sierra Leone, to further improve treatment strategies. International Registered Report Identifier (IRRID) DERR1-10.2196/33677