Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Pain in the Tooth

My wife Kat had been complaining of pain in her mouth for about two weeks while I, the questionably considerate husband, kept repeating absurdities that all resembled "Hey, suck it up." Then, several mornings ago, she woke me to display a red right cheek obviously swollen from about an inch below her eye to the line of her jaw. She stated emphatically--and convincingly--that the pain was now intense. The dentist could see her the next day. She swallowed the strongest painkillers we had on hand, which helped a little, and applied cold packs to the cheek, which helped a bit more. She rinsed her mouth with warm, salty water. She kept complaining. Inspection revealed no discoloration of the gum near the pain site, even though I now suspected I would see it. The dentist diagnosed an abscessed tooth, prescribed an antibiotic, did a root canal to remove the diseased nerves and pulp, and filled the empty space. If this had occurred way back in the wilderness, there isn't really anything else you can do. However, the infection in an abscessed tooth can migrate and become, in the worst-case scenario, a threat to life. You need to recognize one, and evacuate the patient ASAP. (Early assessment could also, possibly, improve marital relations.)

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