Open your mouth wide. Take your right hand and insert three fingers vertically into your mouth. If they fit in comfortably, then your mouth opening is right.
Now imagine if the opening is barely wide enough to push your little finger in.That's a case of lockjaw and that's what happened to me three weeks ago following a dental treatment. I had a molar in very bad condition. I went to my dentist who got a visiting dentist to do a root canal treatment. He did give me a local anesthetic but I had a lot of pain throughout. I found him extremely impersonal. I went home and sort of huddled in bed for the rest of the evening , not eating at all. All this contributed to a spasm they say which locked my jaw into a clamped position. The injection may have been shot into a nerve or muscle which caused the spasm. I thought I would recover once the course of antibiotics were done.
A week later, nothing had improved. We were leaving for Delhi.So I went back to my dentist. He said, you closed your mouth in fright and its not opening now. You've got to open it somehow.
We went to Delhi. We stayed at a swanky hotel and I enjoyed the luxury of it all. Free breakfast included more variety than we have at home in a year. I had yoghurt and juice and omlette and tried to eat as much as I could. But one cannot do justice when you can't get a spoon past your lips. It was all very sad.
Im sure you are thinking by now I must be mad to take it as part of life. My friends have been telling me 'the problem with you (one of them)is... is you don't make a fuss.' When I was growing up, one didn't make a fuss. You had a problem; you got some tablets (maybe), you took them and carried on with life. It was considered kind of low-class, as my friend says, to talk about your physical ailments.
So I told my husband briefly that I couldn't eat - he gave me some tabs which I hoped faithfully would do the trick in a few days and I went on. It was when Darshini came to Delhi, saw me forcing food in painfully and dribbling all over like an old woman, that she pulled up her father and forced him to take notice. "oh these tabs are not working; we'll have to change them' he said.
Upshot is, we came back to Coimbatore and saw a neurologist who sent me to an orthodontist. He gave me a local anesthetic, pried my jaws slightly open and prescribed some physiotherapy. Meanwhile, he seems to have found a gold mine in my mouth- said the treatment done all these years at Ooty was all wrong and some fillings were toxic and some were ... and I would have to have prolonged treatment.
I stayed for a few days while he continued the root canal which originally started, yanked the jaw open everyday ( it tends to close up after every treatment). I stayed home and tried keeping my mouth open with a stack of icecream sticks and carrots.
I went home for a break and came back to Coimbatore to continue the treatment. This time the charm had worn off and the dentist was in serious business. No time to indulge me. This time he put in some metal forceps and pried the jaws wider and wider apart. I was screaming - trying to find his hand to make him stop. There were a couple of loud 'crack' sounds. He was very satisfied and excited when it happened.
He did it again. If this sound like something from a Leon Uris novel, it was. I was curled up in a foetal postion on the chair. I don't think I've screamed after the birth of my kids. The dentist said if he didn't do it, the jaw would remained locked for ever. I said give me a break; I can't take this.
Then he said; look at your front tooth- let me look at it. The cap is bad- toxic. And he proceeded to inject my mouth in 8 places. And started work on 4 front teeth.
I was a total wreck when I got home.
Why did I let him do it? Because I trusted him so much to do the best for me.I was in to much pain to think. But he was doing the best for himself and I realised it only much later.
I've been cocooned all my life, healthwise. I live in a network of doctors. Father, husband, couple of sisters, cousins.. When I have to consult someone outside the family, the connections are protection enough. The docs will give me the best advice. So I've been thinking.
But now, its no longer so. The Hippocrates oath to do your best for your patient doesn't count. And the young doctors are paying a lot of money to study; so pay back has to be fast.
Well, next I consulted my only dentist cousin who happens to live in the US. Go see an oral surgeon she said and not one who has just passed out. Next day, trying to locate one when a friend called. So i told her my sorry history. She said her daughter had gone through this after an accident and she had been treated by a plastic surgeon; one I'd known from childhood. This was like coming home. Managed to see the plastic surgeon and in his team, there was an oral surgeon.
Upshot is: no yanking the jaw open..it should be done gradually over a period of weeks. There is a type of metal instrument available which you put into your mouth and screw open little by little as much as you can take. Meanwhile don't do any other dental treatment.
Im back home, relieved and wiser. I've put down this long story because none of the doctors I met/knew (except the last) had any idea about this case - it was a textbook case to them. It might be useful to someone somewhere.
Henceforth I am going to really listen to all those stories about dreadful thing happening to somebody's chittappa's brother in law. In the era of specialization, finding the right doctor is a long circuitous route. And when you meet me,beware, I might be talking about my health all the time.