We always talk about modern medicine and its many miracles. Well, we’ve always had modern medicine. What we have not had was modern dentistry. Modern dentistry is a relatively new invention, and a good one. What dentists can do is remarkable. Thank goodness.
I had a knot come up on the lower right side of my mandible. It got larger rather quickly, but did not hurt. It was sore and getting sorer, with adjacent lymph node tenderness. I started thinking about tumors, oral cancers, secondary cancers caused by my CLL. Then I thought, maybe I’ve got an abscessed tooth. Well, Debbie pointed out to me that I likely had an abscessed tooth, simplifying things for me considerably. I was determined to think that it was something much more malevolent.
“Call David,” she said. I’ll get you more on David in just a minute.
After a bit more thinking, having seen some signs that things were going in that direction with that particular molar, I figured I probably did have an abscessed tooth and was headed down the root canal path. Everyone loves a root canal. I suppose some people collect them like toy trains, though doubtless with less enthusiasm.
It was a Friday evening. My dentist does not even work on Friday, nor do most dentists, it seems. I try not to work on Friday either, but like some dentists, it does not pan out. I called my life-long close friend, David, a dentist in another town.
“I think I’ve got an abscess going into high gear,” I said, “But it doesn’t seem to be in the right place to me.” Here, I was foolishly attempting to practice a bit of dentistry on myself, which is not illegal, but foolish nonetheless. I was still leaning towards certain, swift demise from a CLL event gone bad.
“Where is it?” asked David.
“On the right side of my mandible at the lower edge just where it starts upwards to the TMJ joint,” I answered, “Which doesn’t seem to me to be the right place, being down so low.”
“It’s exactly the right place, at the base of the root of the tooth.”
I didn’t argue. I lived with David and his wife for a while as he was going to dental school and used to help him study in the evenings, showing flash cards and asking him questions from study sheets. I learned quite a bit about dentistry, far more than the average layman. The most valuable thing I learned is when I need to call a dentist and where to find one in a hurry.
David knows all about my CLL.
“With your compromised immune system, we’ve got to get you on some antibiotics right away. This could turn life-threatening for you. Aren’t you allergic to penicillin?”
“Well, I can call in some Cipro to your pharmacy,” he said.
“Can’t take ciproflaxcin. Or levoflaxcin, either,” I said.
“Did you have a reaction to either one?” he asked.
“Levoflaxcin. Debilitating tendonitis,” I said.
“Ooooo! That’s not good. Amoxycillin?”
“Text me the name and number of your pharmacy. I’ll call it in right now.”
I did and he did.
I hustled on down to the pharmacy. My pharmacist laughed at the instructions on the prescriptions and informed me that they had written them just the way the dentist had called them out.
“Take two right off the bat and I mean it!” it said, among other things.
“That’s the way he called it and that’s the way we wrote it,” he said, laughing heartily.
I got home and took two right off the bat as required since he’d meant it. Then followed up with one 500mg capsule every four hours. By the third dose the abscess knot was half the near-small-walnut/large-acorn size it had gotten. I felt much better.
I called my own dentist Monday morning. Tammi, the lady in charge of things there said it was crazy there that morning, but to come right down and they’d see me. I knew they would.
“I’m not in pain,” I said, “And I’m already taking antibiotics, so I’m good until it is less hectic.”
“What about first thing Wednesday morning?” She asked, adding, “And if you need us before then, just come on down.”
“Perfect,” I said, and hung up the phone. First thing for them is early. I like early.
A bit later, I got a text from David: You know you need to see your own dentist right away. You can’t let this lay just because you feel better. It will be back.
I texted back: Acknowledged and received. Appointment already made for Wednesday. THANK YOU!
The abscess was under a 25 year old crown that had a cracked skirt at the base with a chip missing. The root was not involved, so I didn’t need a root canal. A quick removal of the old crown, some clean up work on the enamel decay that had occurred at the base of the tooth, and some digging (Oww!) to get some impacted materials out of the funnel shaped void where the crown had chipped, and I was fitted with a temporary crown in no time. Sometime next week, I will go back and get the new crown put on. While everything is wonderful now, I will finish my course of antibiotics.
Belinda, the ace dental assistant told me as I walked out the door, “If that temporary crown comes off, you come back here. Don’t you dare glue it back on yourself.” She knows I will. I’ve done it before. Dry the tooth stump off and put one, not two, just one drop of cyanoacrylate glue and it will hold it fine for several days. If it comes off again, you can glue it again. I love modern glues as much as I love modern dentistry.
The most painful part about this was paying for it. But in all honesty, I think I got a bargain. With the money I paid, I got all that modern dentistry could give me, which is a substantial amount.
I wish treating cancer was as workmanlike as fixing teeth. While dentistry has some unique problems, and dentists sometimes have difficulties restoring existing problems, or see new problems that present themselves in a unique manner that only experience can satisfy, all in all, dentists are really good at what they do.
When they bury me from death by CLL, or death from some complication caused by CLL, or from something completely unrelated to CLL but with CLL, as Hemopsapien once told me, I’ll still have a mouth full of good looking, modern dentistrified teeth.
Some might say that in Mississippi, that is a remarkable thing. Were they to say it within earshot in too condescending a tone, this deplorable might see to it that they immediately seek out the services of their own excellent dentist for some restorative work. How lucky they’ll be to have one.
We’ve got plenty of teeth in Mississippi. I’ve got thirty-two. How many do you have? Have you counted the teeth in the mouths of strangers in your own state? There’s likely some missing teeth right near your home. You won’t have to go far to find them, or not find them, as it were.
Thank you, dentists, everywhere. I’m so glad we’ve moved beyond Doc Holliday, who, if he couldn’t fix your teeth, could at least efficiently place a .45 slug to quickly take you out of your misery. If the abscess was bad enough, some might call that a relief.
Time to go and take my Keflex.
Hug your dentist next time you see him. Think kindly of him every time you take a bite of an apple, or eat some corn on the cob, or some peanuts. Gums just won’t get you through those.
©2018 Mississippi Chris Sharp