The tooth fairy clearly has her knickers in a twist. The saga of my tooth from the last blog trundles on and on; I was quite shocked to discover this whole saga has been going on for more than six weeks now, and it is causing me quite a lot of consternation – and not just because of the pain. As a post-transplant patient my immune system is still very immature; in June I will have to have all my childhood vaccines again (that is causing some consternation too), but until I reach the one-year anniversary I am at risk from procedures that normal folk would cope with quite easily. One of these is a root canal filling. Nobody wants one of these, but it became obvious as soon as I hit the dentist’s chair that there was no other option. My first visit back after the holiday resulted in even stronger antibiotics than I was given on the ship – my mouth was so swollen again there was no way he could do anything at the time. Metronidazole has a fearsome reputation; it is also used to discourage alcoholics from taking a wee dram as it provokes violent sickness at the merest sniff of the amber nectar. With the aid of live sheep’s yoghurt I managed to keep my stomach intact during the week-long course, but the infection didn’t go away. My next visit to the dentist was the deciding factor – he didn’t want to give me any more antibiotics (which was great as I didn’t want them) but would go straight ahead and carry out the first part of the root canal treatment there and then. This would hopefully stop the pain as it involves killing then taking out the infected nerve then lots of yucky cleaning out. In another life there are two things I would not ever want to be: a teacher of small children or a dentist. It was actually a lot less painful than expected and I skipped away reasonably happily, thinking all would be well. Theoretically the discomfort would settle down and the dentist would be able to complete the procedure in a couple of weeks. If it didn’t calm down I would need an extraction and, due to the state of my immune system, more antibiotics. Even though I think antibiotics deplete the immune system. Can you see how it is getting a bit complicated? However, I do believe that things happen for a reason, and that when our plans are delayed, apart from giving the gods the chance to have a jolly good laugh, it also gives us the opportunity to re-examine our choices. More of that in a moment.
The pain and swelling didn’t go away, with the result that the whole right side of my face and throat became unbelievably sore. This is the same side of my face where I had the cancer, so you can imagine how well I was sleeping at night. This is exactly where mindfulness practice comes in, and I was really struggling not to give in to the fear – especially in the wee small hours – that it had all kicked off again. I called the lovely Lisa, my transplant co-ordinator – who arranged for me to have a blood test just to be sure. It turned out that my blood test was fine, good even, which helped a lot, but the message also came back that Joe didn’t want me to have any more antibiotics as I have had so many recently. OK. Something to bear in mind if I was going to have an extraction, which I would also have to run by Joe. I was reasonably happy with all this until I read someone on a cancer blog saying that her blood tests were excellent but that the cancer was running riot through her body and had only been discovered through a routine scan. Oh dear. How can I stop these fears taking root then sneaking up on me in unguarded moments? That is a work in progress, to be sure. I started to gargle with salt water as I read that the bacteria attaches itself to the salt particles and so gets taken out of the system, but I was in so much pain that I had to have an emergency appointment with another dentist on Thursday. Easter was looming and I couldn’t bear the thought of four more days before seeing somebody. This visit resulted in another cleanout of the cavity, which has helped a bit but I have also been slooshing with salt water like it is going out of fashion. I am assuming the tooth will have to come out, but I am back in again tomorrow to see what happens next.
I had calmed down a little bit over the weekend when I happened to read an article somebody posted on Facebook. The trouble with all the FB stuff is of course that you take in the words and images before any sense of censorship kicks in, although on this occasion I am sort of glad it just grabbed me as it did. This article was correlating a connection between root canal work and cancer. I was going to add a link here, but to be honest there are so many articles that if this subject interests you, just type ‘root canal and cancer’ into Google. If you aren’t interested I do apologise as almost all of this blog is about my teeth. I promise the next one won’t be. I was initially convinced that some form of pesticide was responsible for the mantle cell lymphoma, but now I am not so sure. What these articles were saying is that it is impossible to clean out dental cavities completely, so when the final part of the treatment, the permanent (probably Mercury) filling, goes on top it is locking in an awful lot of bugs. Equally, when a tooth is extracted, it is impossible to completely sterilise the resulting cavity. The bugs then morph into powerful bacteria which don’t need oxygen to survive, can’t be treated with antibiotics, and can freely move into the bones then join the blood supply for their guided tour of the body. That scenario can lead to a depressed immune system, which in turn can allow cancer to develop. So my instinct that the infection was moving into my bones wasn’t quite so far off the mark, given that I have had abscesses for over twenty years, on and off, and several root fillings as a result. In fact every time I am run down I get a sore throat and my teeth hurt on that side. So it is pretty obvious, in the light of my recent reading, that there is still infection in my jaw. A horrifying thought in the light of the last year’s fun and games.
The cogs have been very busily turning in my mind as I ponder what to do about this. The best solution would be to take a bulging bank account to a holistic dentist as of course these things don’t come cheap. Stephen and I have thought for a long time that we should have our Mercury fillings removed, but it is something that is a) a lot less attractive than a cruise and b) costs an awful lot more than a cruise. Being the hedonistic couple that we are, that particular line of treatment had slipped way down the list. But it does make sense, doesn’t it? Why would anyone want a mouthful of potentially toxic metal? I know of several people who have been miraculously cured of their ills once all the fillings were replaced. It is so hard, and so expensive, trying to struggle free from the shackles of Western/science-based treatment. Of course the conventional dentists say that the treatments they offer are perfectly safe, but where have we heard all that before?
And there is another side to it. I have been told I shouldn’t have any more antibiotics, yet I will need them if I have the tooth out as there is a very high risk of infection. But I already clearly have an infection which two lots of antibiotics haven’t sorted out, so where does that leave me, exactly? And how should I proceed? Have it out or not? Antibiotics or not? Aaaargh! In my pre-cancer existence I would have simply gargled and taken Echinacea and all that stuff until it all calmed down again, but now I’m not so sure… in fact I am really confused.
I’m off to do even more research….