Saturday, June 1, 2013

Getting Their Money's Worth

Dentists don’t make housecalls, and many disappear after office hours, so I hear about problems for which I am not trained.

Over Memorial Day weekend, a woman explained that her daughter had undergone dental work before they left town and suffered pain since. The jaw appeared swollen, and the mother suggested it was an infection that required antibiotics. In fact, most tooth pain doesn’t require an antibiotic; even a dental abscess must be drained.

So I felt stress driving to the Universal Hilton. I don’t like making a housecall where I don’t solve a problem.

The daughter’s jaw didn’t appear swollen, but any painful part of your body looks abnormal. The tension rose as I took her temperature and washed my hands. What would I say if I didn’t know what was happening?

Those situations have occurred but not this time. When I peered at the affected tooth, it looked normal, but on the nearby gum I saw an angry half-centimeter ulceration. She had a canker sore. They’re excruciating, but they heal in a week. I used to suffer them after accidentally striking my gum while brushing my teeth, so the dental work might have provoked it.

I reassured the parents and handed over a bottle of liquid Lidocaine to alleviate the pain. The mother looked relieved.

“I’m sorry I called you out over something so trivial,” said the father as he paid me.

I assured him that almost everyone I see has a minor problem, but he seemed less grateful than his wife. Men often feel they’re not getting their money’s worth if the problem turns out to be less serious than they expected. But that’s another post.

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