Helen Bolton needed 11 and a half hours of life-saving open heart surgery after a tiny cyst on her gum led to blood poisoning and endocarditis. A MUM who has waited two years to register with an NHS dentist nearly died when an untreated minor tooth problem triggered a potentially fatal heart infection.
The mum-of-three, 42, joined a waiting list for a dentist in January 2015 after moving from Portsmouth, Hants, to Indian Queens, in Cornwall.
She found the 3mm abscess last January and was still waiting to register with a practice when she was rushed to Derriford Hospital, in Plymouth, close to death last month.
Medics removed two teeth, a 3cm by 3cm infected mass that had filled the right atrium of her heart, and even a pacemaker, previously fitted for another medical condition.
Helen, who is still recovering in hospital, claims she begged 15 times for a dentist in the past year and even offered to travel to Devon.
Hospital doctors revealed her endocarditis had been caused by bacteria from the mucus-filled cyst entering her bloodstream.
She said: “I knew there was a risk tooth infections can spread to the heart, so when the cyst popped up I knew it was important to get it treated straight away.
“I would never have thought I could have been staring death in the face because of such a minor problem with my tooth.
“Doctors told me I was gravely ill and said I was lucky to have survived that first night. I thought I might not make it, and I wasn’t ready to never see my children again.
“I am so angry and frustrated because this was all completely preventable, right from the beginning, yet it nearly cost me my life – and cost the NHS a fortune.
“All I needed was a dentist’s appointment. A dentist could have drained the abscess or even taken the tooth out – it would have been minor compared to this.
“The NHS is on its knees, and had preventative measures been taken hundreds of thousands of pounds could have been saved on surgery and removing a perfectly good pacemaker which was keeping my heart well, not to mention the general costs of my care.
“And because of all this I missed Christmas with my family – my eight-year-old had to wake up on Christmas day without his mum – and I am sad because I can never get that time back.”
Her biggest regret is that she missed Christmas with her young son because of her infected abscess.
Helen visited an emergency dentist twice in the past year after she lied and said she was in pain.
They managed to fix the problem temporarily but the cyst kept coming back and needed longer term treatment.
She is still waiting to register with a dentist.
Endocarditis is a rare and potentially fatal infection caused when bacteria in the bloodstream travels to the heart and spreads across its inner lining, the endocardium, causing it to become inflamed.
One of the most common ways bacteria can enter the blood and reach the heart is via the mouth and the risks are increased it the teeth or gums are in bad condition.
Bacteria can also spread from the site of a pre-existing infection, such as a gum infection.
A spokesman for NHS England South West said: “We’re working hard to improve waiting times for routine NHS dentistry in Cornwall but emergency appointments are always available at short notice.”
Story Source: The Sun
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