Tipsy Dentistry: The Red Flags of Dental Infection

Introducing The Red Flags- the jam band helping you remember the important things you need to know about dental infection. From airway compromise to trismus, these are the things you need to watch out for.

Tipsy Dentistry: The Red Flags of Dental Infection
The Red Flags, the hottest band of the summer, are helping you remember the warning signs of a bad dental infection. 

The Red Flags are helping out dentists everywhere.

The new jam band that is selling out amphitheaters throughout the summer is helping you remember important stuff.

From Humble beginnings…

The Red Flags were formed…when some very clever British oral surgeons came up with a nifty, little way to remember the red flags of dental infection.

In our typical way, Tipsy Dentistry decided to take a useful acronym and visualize it- making it so much easier for you to remember...because it's sometimes even hard to remember what the thousands of memorization tricks in dentistry even mean.

If you are a little behind the times, this is how Tipsy Dentistry works:

1️⃣We give you an illustration

2️⃣We tell you a story to help you remember everything you need to know for dental school and your clinical career

3️⃣From our trip to Fungal Funland to our bachelor party weekend in Vagus, we sear the information into your brain so you don't forget it.

Introducing "FATLIPS": An Easy Way to Remember the Red Flags of Dental Infection

As you can see from our band members, each of them has a letter on their shirt spelling the word, "FATLIPS"...

The "FATLIPS" acronym will help you remember everything you need to know about the red flags of dental infection

The Red Flags of Dental Infection

🚩Failed Treatment

🚩Airway Compromise


🚩LOOK for swelling

🚩Immunocompromised status


🚩Swallowing Difficulties

What happens when dental infection does not respond to antibiotics?

The flutist is our reminder that it should make you think twice about just sending them home to rest.

A failure of treatment (think incision and drainage or antibiotics) may suggest that the organism is especially virulent.

P.S- Check out our visual, animated review on antibiotics if you are a bit behind on your antibiotic knowledge

Remember: Failed treatment, as represented by the flutist, is the first red flag of dental infection
The "F" in the FATLIPS acronym stands for failed treatment of dental infection

Dental Infection Causing Airway Compromise

What's a good band without an accordion player?

Ask anyone attending a Wisconsin polka and you know it’s just not the same without an accordion player.

In the case of the Red Flags, it’s an accordion player that looks like they are having difficulty breathing.

The "A" in the FATLIPS acronym stands for airway...shortness of breath and a choking feeling should make you think of airway compromise and something you shouldn’t let walk out of your office

Remember: The accordian player is experiencing airway compromise- the second red flag of dental infection.
The accordion player having difficulty breathing represents airway compromise as the next red flag of dental infection.

Dental Infection and Trismus

A tambourine player doesn't really need his mouth to help out the band.

But in this case a zipped mouth and limited opening is a red flag.

The Tambourine player with a "T" on his shirt stands for Trismus.

According to the FATLIPS paper, mouth opening is classified as follows

  • Less than 3 cm is mild trismus
  • Less than 2 cm is moderate trismus
  • And less than 1 cm is severe trismus
Remember: The zipped mouth of the tamborine player reminds you of difficulty opening AKA trismus- the third red flag of dental infection.
The tambourine player represents the cause for concern when a patient has trismus

Swelling from Dental Infection

It’s hard to Miss a Scottish Bagpiper

Especially one with a very swollen face…which is why you should look for swelling in your patient exam.

As you can see the bagpiper is playing through the pain even though his face is stung by bees. Specifically LOOK for:

👉Lower border of mandible not palpable

👉Orbit swelling

👉Oral cavity swelling

👉Neck swelling

Remember: A swollen Scottish bagpiper getting stung by bees is an easy way to remember to LOOK for swelling
The Scottish Bagpiper that looks like he is getting stung by bees represents the importance of LOOK-ing for swelling

An Immunocompromised Patient and Dental Infection

A sickly looking cello player...

Should really just be at the hospital instead of playing the show, but here we are.

The green, IV-ed cello player reminds us of that you need to watch out for infection in the immunocompromised.

Things such as:

  • Immunosuppressants
  • Poor medical history
  • Alcoholic or smoker
  • Current pregnancy

…are all things that should make you call it a night early and get your patient to the hospital

Remember: A cello player in a hospital gown represents the immunocompromised as another red flag of dental infection.
An sickly looking cello player reminds us of the seriousness of an immunocompromised patient with a dental infection.

Pyrexia and Dental Infection

...Also known as fever

Playing a percussion instrument makes you work hard...

You could imagine that this drum player has a high body temperature, plus an increased heart rate and respiratory rate.

Pyrexia with advancing infection needs to be something that you really watch for when your patient walks through the door.

Remember: The percussion player represents pyrexia as another red flag of dental infection. 
The drum player (percussion instrument) working hard producing a high temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and respiratory rate

Swallowing Difficulties with Dental Infection

The final member of the band seems to be struggling

Our saxophone player is having difficulty playing his instrument...and having a not so easy time swallowing.

Remember: A saxophone player, having difficulty playing his instrument, represents the final red flag- difficulty swallowing (and drooling).
The saxophone player is struggling, this band member represents the final red flag of dental infection...swallowing difficulties

Thanks for attending the show...

And make sure to look out for more Tipsy Dentistry coming right to your email.