Finish Your Antibiotic Courses and Don’t Abuse Drugs

If you are easily grossed out by thoughts of yucky things, just obey the title and we won’t have any issues.

It started last Friday. Wait, no. Too fast.

It started during Reading Week. I got three wisdom teeth removed. I only had three. Two on my right side. It was a painful recovery – as expected – but I survived. I had my medicine and finished my full antibiotic course. I turned into a chipmunk for half a week. The check-up appointment with the oral surgeon went well; he said the recovery looked good. Life was good.

Then it started last Friday. I felt a strange swelling in my lower right jaw. Unsure if I had just slept wrong the night before, I decided it was probably nothing to worry about. Never make this assumption.

I woke Saturday morning and knew that it was time to start worrying. My lower right jaw was swelling most uncomfortably. I cancelled all plans. I called the dental office. They’re closed on weekends. I called their emergency hotline. I was told to leave a message. I did. I waited 20 minutes until they returned my call. I answered the phone. I was prescribed antibiotics again. It was Amoxicillin. The same one I was on during my initial recovery state.

Sunday. Half my face was back to chipmunk status in full. There was some mass in my lower right jaw. Overall things didn’t seem to be getting much better. I resolved to make sure I went to see a dental surgeon in person on Monday.

Come Monday. Lower right jaw mass still there. Overall, though, has not expanded greatly. I called the dental office to make an appointment. They had time for me. I also had two interviews to rush to. I used my hair as cover for my right-side chipmunk. The interviews went well. Life seemed to be good again.

Enter dental office. Smile at everyone. Get taken to room. Enter dental surgeon. Asks a few questions. Light chitchat. Mentions that the surgeon who did my wisdom teeth removal will probably have to deal with the infection that is likely in my lower right jaw. Comes over to inspect it. Feels around my jaw. Does not look too pleased. Asks receptionist how many other patients there are that day. Tells me he’s going to have to remove some pus.

Wait. What?

In come three nurses. BOOM: there’s dental equipment in front of me. Still trying to grasp situation. Wait, pus removal? You mean the lower right jaw mass there? Oh ya I knew that was pus… but remove it? As in, poke a hole in my gum to drain it out? OK, I agree that this is a good idea but this was not what I was expecting on a nice Monday afternoon.

“Open up.” I do. He mentions local freezing. Ok, I can handle that. Just a needle – it’ll be good not to feel this draining process.

OH MY GOSH, THE PAIN.

I’m not sure why, but that injection spread a heated wave of potent nerve-destroying pain around my lower right jaw. Perhaps it was because the mass had already caused that area to be quite sore from the swelling. Perhaps some mixture of pus and numbing solution caused intense pain. But imagine concentrated acid radiating through your lower right jaw to fully understand the terror of the situation. It lasted for about 3 minutes after the needle was removed.

Nurse hands me consent form. “You need to sign this so he can remove the pus.” I’m slightly woozy from the freezing injection. I read over the form. A regular form. I consider not signing it and running out… perhaps not the best thing to do. I scribble what I now recognize as the worst signature I have ever given. I lie back.

For the next few minutes I closed my eyes and was carefully kept informed of what was going on. A short comforting “it’ll be alright” or a “we’re almost done” were heard here and there. In short, the nurse held a vacuum while the surgeon made an incision and squeezed the mass of pus out of my lower right jaw. The process was more mentally taxing than painful; it’s a good thing that freezing injection was done (despite those three minutes of agony).

When all was done, he stitched in a drainer of sort, so that any more pus would drain out rather than stay affixed in my gums. Disgusting as a thought, but I am thankful for it.

Delighted that it was all done, I took my new prescriptions. Two new antibiotic drugs, both more potent. I wait for around half an hour in hunger at the Shopper’s Drug Mart to get them. I go home.

I have a moment of rage thinking that while I finished my full course of antibiotics like a good dutiful patient, somehow I ended up getting infected by a resistant strain. Perhaps I was just unlucky, but let’s not kid ourselves. The amount of drug resistant strains of bacteria are increasing today. Why? Because some people think they’re better than the doctor and don’t finish their course of antibiotics. Guys, I know you start feeling better after you’re half way through. But there are still some bacteria left. And shown by science these bacteria have an increased chance of developing mutations that make them resistant to the antibiotic you were on. OK, so you get better. But how many people did you pass that bacteria onto before your immune system fully got rid of them? Bacteria can exchange resistance genes with each other through a special biological process called conjugation. One resistant strain could pass that resistance on to many others.

Same with people who take antibiotics without a prescription. DON’T FREAKIN’ DO THIS. IT’S NOT ONLY BAD FOR YOU BUT YOU’RE THE REASON PEOPLE NEED TO GET PUS DRAINED OUT OF THEIR GUMS. I exaggerate. But only mildly. Taking antibiotics when you don’t have a bacterial infection (ie. when you have the flu, which is a virus and not a bacteria – they are different. VERY DIFFERENT.) mean that the bacteria in your gut will still be targeted. This may lead to lots of washroom troubles, but may also lead to some of your gut bacteria developing resistance. And guess what? Next time you get a real bacterial infection, your gut bacteria might transfer the resistance over. WHO KNOWS WHERE IT WILL END?!

But on a good note, I’m really thankful to the dental clinic for seeing me. And even more to the oral surgeon who decided to drain my jaw even though I was neither his patient nor his responsibility. Yes it was painful, but it’s much better now than when I had a mass in my jaw. I suppose I overdramatized the pain… no, I don’t think I did. If all my writing of pain and disgusting pus will get people to finally stop abusing antibiotic treatments then it’s all worth your discomfort while reading this.

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