Bill, does this look infected?

Dear Bill Simmons:

Hey Bill, I can’t really concentrate on my writing, not lately. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ve got this clicking in my jaw. It’s like, I was chewing some gum last week, everything was fine, but then there was this one chew where my jaw just, well, something happened, I can’t really describe it. It’s almost like the jaw bones, it’s like they missed, like wherever they’re supposed to connect when they go up and down, I don’t know, maybe something slipped out. But I was chewing so fast, it’s not like it just popped out. No, it popped, but then I continued to chew. And I don’t know how you chew gum, but this was like a hard chew, all of my jaw strength clamping down on a joint that, as I far as I can guess, was now totally out the socket. And that hurt, there was like an audible chnk sound, an intense pain that shot up the side of my head.

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Right after that it started swelling, and I couldn’t close my mouth all the way. That was for like two or three days, and while it’s a little better now, there’s still some stiffness, my bite hasn’t really gone back to the way it was. And the clicking, that’s what I was getting at, even when I do manage to warm up my jaw and get a good bite rhythm going, there’s that click, like I’m imagining something just a little off, each time I chew I can hear it, click, click, click.

Do you think I should go to the dentist? I’m worried that they’re going to try to sell me on some experimental procedure that hasn’t really proved its effectiveness in the general public. From everything that I’ve read online, it’s like, if you have a jaw problem, just deal with it. Modern medicine hasn’t yet come up with a consensus on how best to deal with these issues. There are so many horror stories of people enduring painful surgeries and long recoveries, only to have things wind up worse than when they started.

And yeah, one obvious solution would be to just stop chewing gum for a while, maybe give my body as good of an interrupted chunk of time as I can string together to really try to heal itself. But I love gum. Which is a dumb reason to keep chewing, I get it, but it’s just that, I’m not entirely convinced that the gum chewing was the problem. I keep having this idea that something just got slightly out of whack, like a door that’s just barely off of its hinge. And I don’t know, I have this feeling like if I could only knock it back into place.

That’s crazy though, right? Hey Bill, I hate to change topics abruptly here, but the other day I was riding my bike and, I don’t know what happened, because I ride my bike every day, it’s one of those skills that I take for granted. So you can imagine how surprised I was when my right foot slipped off of the pedal. I was wearing shorts because it had just started to get nice out, and so the inside of my ankle made contact with the chain.

At first it didn’t look like it was going to be that bad, but then these thick globs of blood started bubbling at the skin, it was like it was condensing at the surface from the inside. By the time I pedaled home, the crimson stain on my sock was pretty noticeable. While the cut itself wasn’t that big, it was definitely deeper than just your average scrape, and so I don’t know, should I go and have it checked out?

It’s not bleeding anymore, I mean, it was a few days ago, but it’s really hard to clean out. I put on this invisible skin spray, but I feel like that just added an extra layer of gunk, and so I can’t tell if this thing is healing properly, or maybe there’s just too much liquid bandage accumulating around the edges of the cut. I don’t mind winding up with a scar, I mean, I know you’re supposed to get stitches within like three or four hours. But I just can’t shake the feeling like this thing is going to get infected, I’m not going to be paying attention, or I’m going to convince myself that it’s OK when it’s not OK, and the next thing I know, well … do you know that Calvin Coolidge’s son died from a blister? Yeah, he was just playing tennis, got a blister, didn’t tell anybody about how bad it was getting, and then he was dead. Sure, that was right before antibiotics, but if I don’t go to the doctor, it’ll be like I’m living in the early 1900s, like this thing is going to get worse and worse until it’s too late.

But on the other hand, I don’t want to turn into one of those wackos who goes to the emergency room every time he needs a Band-Aid. They’ll prescribe antibiotics, eventually they’ll stop working, then one day I’ll be sixty and I’ll get pneumonia and the doctors will be like, “It’s really strange, it’s almost as if your body isn’t responding to the medicine at all. Oh well, better get your affairs in order.”

I know I’m spending way too much time in my head, and whether or not my wound is life threatening or not, the anxiety I’m feeling is very real. And the only way I know to cope with it is to keep chewing gum, which, like I said before, may or may not be making my jaw problem worse. Bill, you’re a lot older than me, do you have any advice? Would you go to doctor? Is it worth the copay? I’ll send you a picture. Does this look infected?

Thanks Bill,

Rob G.

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