I always tell people they should get in touch with the doctor when they are worried. I know that doctors are far from infallible, but until recently, I thought they at least cared enough to make an effort to keep you from dying.
A few days ago, it felt like something was stuck in my gum in back of my mouth near one of the big molars. I brushed. I flossed. After a while, it was still bothering me, but I was turning my gums into hamburger, so I quit.
Yesterday, I took a flashlight and looked. Nasty. The gum is eroded and puffy, slightly grey. Not pretty. Too late to call the dentist, but I had an appointment next Wednesday and had prophylactic antibiotics in hand.
I had a mitral valve replaced last year, among other heart-related surgeries. Oral infections are particularly dangerous for heart patients. They will spread quickly from mouth to heart valve.
I followed my own advice.
This sort of thing can be scary. Fast as a speeding bullet, I could be dead — which is why I take antibiotics before I have dental work done. It’s also why I have to be ultra careful about infection in general.
Not knowing what else to do, I starting taking the antibiotics. I figured taking antibiotics I might not need would be safer than doing nothing. I would be upset and depressed if I died before I got to the dentist.
As it turned out, my dentist doesn’t have hours on Friday. He works alone — no associates — so there was no one I could talk to until Monday.
I called my cardiologist. Talked to the nurse. Explained I’m taking clindamycin which I got from my dentist just yesterday. It’s not a full prescription, but more than the amount I normally get before a dental appointment — 16 pills. Pharmacy error? If so, it was a fortunate one. I looked up dosage information on-line, and started taking it last night.
I explained all of this to the nurse. She assured me the doctor would get back to me. It took a couple of hours, but he did.
Until other circumstances I would have called my “primary care doctor,” but he has never bothered to read my medical history. He understands nothing, doesn’t listen, dismisses me as a weird, old hypochondriac. My cardiologist, on the other hand, is one of the good guys.
I like to think they balance each other out. Does medicine work that way?
So, here’s my advice. Talk to your doctor. But maybe you need to start by finding a doctor who cares. Shows compassion. Who will get to knows you well enough to recognize you if he bumps into you on the street.
Because mine wouldn’t.