Infection is the general term describing invasion of the body by microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi/spores. Antibiotic is the general term for drugs used to treat infections (anti-biotic literally means anti-life). Antibiotics include drugs with antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic properties.
Infection by parasites does not play a major role in the industrialised parts of the world (with the possible exception of toxoplasmosis which usually does not even require treatment). However, it should be kept in mind that worldwide ca. 2 billion people suffer from some variety of parasitic, sometimes deadly, infection at any given time.
Bacterial, viral and fungal infections, however, are all highly relevant in an oral and maxillofacial context: the oral and maxillofacial region is the major interface between an individual and the external environment. As a result the region is constantly exposed to microorganisms that may give rise to infection; infectious processes are of major importance in oral and maxillofacial surgery.
Three areas, each with their own specific microflora, are of importance:
- the cutaneous regions (skin) of the face
- the oral cavity (mouth)
- the nasal cavity (nose) and paranasal air sinuses (air-filled spaces in the vicinity of the nose).
The entire region can be afflicted by a wide range of acute and/or chronic bacterial and fungal infections, as well as by viral infections. The severity of infections covers the whole range from trivial to life threatening. In many instances prophylaxis (prevention of infection) is crucially important. In some instances, treatment of bacterial or viral infections can lead to an increased risk of fungal infections (opportunistic infections).
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