One of my friends has an extensive repertoire of eye-rollingly bad jokes – most of them obtained from ‘The Ha Ha Bonk Book’. That’s a children’s joke book, in case you’re wondering. Whenever she receives the reply, “Two thirty” to her casual enquiry, “What’s the time?”, she’ll take delight in responding, “You’d better go to the dentist’s then!”.
And that is exactly what I did a couple of weeks ago, after waking up at 3am with stonking toothache, radiating from the area of a wisdom tooth which periodically flares up a bit. This time, however, it was more than just a bit as it kept me awake for the rest of the night. When I arose with the dawn I stomped to the bathroom and peered, blearily-eyed, into the mirror with my mouth opened wide, using a torch to illuminate the angry red mass adjacent to my tonsils. After a few minutes of angling, peering, and yelping, I decided it would be prudent to stop in case I managed to smash the mirror with the end of the rather long torch and so sentence myself to seven years of bad luck. I breakfasted on lukewarm tea, slurped through the opposite side of my mouth from the offending tooth, tiny bites of soft banana, and a couple of ibuprofen, and then headed off to the dentist’s. I felt particularly disgruntled by this turn of events as it was the last day of my week of annual leave (which I’d hoped would work miracles on the relaxation front, leading to a renewed and revitalised me), and my birthday was in two days time. No sweet treats or birthday cake for me, then… 😦
I reluctantly lay back in the dentist’s chair, fearing for my oil-filled RD eye as well as my aching wisdom tooth as I obeyed the dreaded instruction to “open wide” with an internal sigh whilst gripping the edge of the chair. “Oh dear, yes, I can see exactly what the problem is!”, exclaimed the dentist, which did nothing to calm my frayed nerves as I proceeded to visualise my tooth hanging by a bloody thread with a puscular mass of green gunk welling up from deep inside the gum. Fortunately, it wasn’t actually that bad: I just had a severely inflammed gum. “It often happens when you get a bit of food stuck and if you’re a bit low and tired it can cause everything to flare up”, the dentist explained, leading me to wail, “But I’ve only just had a holiday!”. He was all set to prescribe antibiotics as a precaution in case it got worse over the weekend, but then retreated to ‘The Drugs Bible’ when I told him that I’d had multiple retinal detachments and would need to be sure they were safe for me to take. I was vaguely aware of recent research which had found a link between certain antibiotics and RD, and so I wasn’t prepared to take any chances. After deliberating, he decided he didn’t want to give me antibiotics until I’d checked with Moorfields as to which ones would be okay. When he noted that it would be good to get an updated medical history from me for the records I reacted with surprise, explaining that I’d done that at my annual check-up appointment just a couple of months previously. “Oh!”, he said, in equal surprise, peering at the computer screen. “All it says here is, ‘seeing doctor about her eyes'”. Genius.
Instead of antibiotics, he gave the offending tooth a good clean-out (ouch) and advised continuing with ibuprofen and salt water mouthwashes. When I got home, I rang the Moorfields advice line about the antibiotics query, whereupon I was put through to their pharmacy. First, I was told that I’d need to check with my consultant; then I was told that the Canadian study which found a link between certain antibiotics and RD was flawed; and finally I was told that the antibiotics the dentist had suggested would be fine and the important thing was to take whatever was the best for my tooth. All of this advice was given by the same person and did nothing to ease my niggling doubts on the issue. I’ll be seeing my consultant in November and so will ask about antibiotics then, but unless I definitely need to take them, I don’t really want to bother him in the meantime. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian study led to warnings being included on the boxes of certain antibiotics, which suggests that there is a cause for concern regarding these specific ones. And as for taking whatever was the best thing for the tooth… surely the whole picture needs to be considered?! I mean, a decent medical professional wouldn’t just hand out aspirin to treat the heart condition of a haemophiliac, would they? Okay, I admit that I know next to nothing about haemophilia or heart conditions, but you take my point.
Anyway… fortunately, after dosing up on ibuprofen and swilling my mouth out with the contents of the North Sea, the toothache gradually retreated and the gum seems to have returned to its normal size. I’m still treating it cautiously and am hoping that it won’t flare up again… or at least not until after my next Moorfields appointment in November anyway.
Note: The group of antibiotics which have been linked to RD are Fluoroquinolones.
Note 2: ‘The Ha Ha Bonk Book’ is by Janet and Allan Ahlberg, and comes highly recommended by my hilarious friend. If anyone can explain the joke concerning Tarzan, Jane, and colour-blindness on page 16, please do let me know. This has been something which has puzzled my friend since the tender age of 7 and she’s now reached the ripe old age of 40 but so far, nobody has been able to explain it.