Repost with Forewords: Alcohol – The Feared Subject

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Acute pancreatitis is life threatening illness

Today I went to see a man who for my children is very dear despite his dependency to alcohol. They never defined him as an addict and never thought anything but the best of him. This man is their grandfather who fell gravely ill several months ago with acute pancreatitis caused by lifelong abuse of alcohol.

Having spent over five months in hospital of which he spent four in an intensive care (2 months in coma), he was finally at home. But he was a shadow of a man he used to be.

This man used to be proud. He was a kind and pleasant (when sober) man. He was very skilled and was ready to help others when needed. He loved kids and knew what would make them happy.

Today when I went to see him he was lying in bed barely recognisable weighing just 50 kg. He had tubes coming out of his stomach leading into a bag that was filling up with brownish secretion from his organs that were riddled with a spreading necrosis. He was unable to obtain any food or drink inside, taking several medications many times a day, dependent of his wife who was looking after him. His voice was like he was speaking from the grave.

It was the saddest sight I have ever seen. There was no need or desire to say I told you so. No gloating over being right all these years about his future. It was just simple sadness over a kind man, father, husband, grandfather who would have had so much more to give to so many but instead now was bed-bound waiting the imminent death. Slow death that took away all pride and dignity and which every day reminded him why he is where he is now. Alcohol.

But even more sad than seeing him now is the fact that he never got the help he would have needed for his drinking which started at his twenties. No-one intervened when there was still a chance to turn the tables. Instead of this a troubled sensitive soul was taken over by the numbing comfort of an alcohol that took a firmer hold of him as the years went by. He faced many misfortunes in his life and he dealt with them by alcohol. He had happy times and he dealt with them by alcohol. Before he reached his fifties everything he did, everywhere he went the alcohol came along.

He was told by all the close relatives that he cannot continue drinking like this. He was told he has a problem with the alcohol. One day he admitted he does, the other he declined. He never seeked help. And no-one could force him. Instead he came a master in finding excuses to visit his hidden bottle. Taking the garbage out, checking something from the garage, fetching firewood for the fireplace. Everyone who was witnessing this knew that he went for his hidden bottle. This too was heartbreaking to watch.

When he finally fell ill and the house needed to be emptied of all the alcohol there was altogether 30 litres of strong spirit.

This man’s story is not unique. There are plenty of similar fates in the world.

The longer the alcoholic carries on drinking the harder it is to intervene. I mean that the intervention we can do at the dental practice has less impact than it would have in the early days of an addiction. That is why the early intervention is very important and us dental professionals have a very easy and natural way to intervene.

Please read my post below and hopefully it will bring you courage to ask about patients’ alcohol consumption.


About 60 year-old man came to see me one morning and complained that every once in a while a layer of skin comes off inside his mouth and no-one has been able to tell why. He was concerned and felt…

Source: Alcohol – The feared subject

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Blast from the Past

Do you know how it was like to work at dental practice in the 70’s?

Once upon time there was a young nurse Jane. She was hard working and liked by the dentists. One day Jane moved to another town and applied for two dental nurse’s posts. She was offered a job from both of them but she chose a dental practice of four dentists. She was allocated to work with a 30 year old dentist Anna.
Anna was pleasant in behaviour towards Jane. Using kind words and voice when talking to her. Jane was very happy to have found such a good workplace.

But then – and not very long after Jane had started working there – became a day when everything changed. Jane had done something to upset Anna. It was something that Anna found completely incomprehensible.

“You are not a very good nurse, are you?! Not half as good as your predecessor! She at least cleaned my windows!” Anna said with a raised voice.

Jane wasn’t sure how to react. She was in shock about this sudden change in Anna’s behaviour. What windows did she possibly mean?

“I don’t understand what you mean?” Jane said cautiously.

“You… What… You… Don’t understand?!” Anna gasped.

“MY windows of course. My windows at home!” She added and stormed out of the room.

Jane was standing still for a while holding the instruments she was organising. She didn’t know she was supposed to clean dentist’s private windows as well. And probably on her own time as working hours she spent in the practice. That’s not what she signed for.

From this day onwards Anna treated Jane like garbage. Shouting and swearing at her even in front of the patients. Jane felt humiliated and insecure. Should she leave? She didn’t want to as nurse’s jobs were hard to find. So she stayed and the thing that made it easier to put up with Anna’s bullying was the practice’s other dentists’ support to her. They told Anna off many times but it made no difference whatsoever.

One morning Jane came to work and was walking practice’s long corridor to her surgery. Just when she was reaching to open the door Anna came out. She was sitting on her chair and rolling it forwards with her feet.

“Odd.” thought Jane, “What a peculiar thing to do…”

She watched Anna and her transporter chair rolling to the other end of the corridor where the toilet was. In she went and so did the chair without Anna getting up. Her long white saggy uniform got stuck between the door and it went up and down as Anna tried to pull it in without opening the door. Jane was amused and was wondering if Anna has completely lost it. Probably has.

The bullying – and the chair rolling – carried on for the next 4 months but Jane put up with it and did her job as well as she could. But she did not clean Anna’s windows. Nor her home. That’s where she drew the line. She was a dental nurse, not a servant!

Jane had been working for Anna for almost six months when Anna one day – at the end of the day – said to Jane

“Your employment will be discontinued in a fortnight.”

Jane was caught by surprise and wasn’t able to say anything sensible to Anna. But perhaps the question mark over her head was so obvious that Anna continued with a blunt voice

“I am pregnant and my due date is in a month.”

Now Jane was even more surprised but suddenly it all made sense. The saggy uniform, rolling with the chair, mood swings… It wasn’t because Anna was a loony. She was pregnant which now was obvious!

Jane felt angry and helpless. There was nothing she could do but to find a new job. Should she have known it was a temporary post she would have chosen the other job she was offered.

The working relationship between these two ladies came to an end. Whenever Jane saw Anna in town with her baby and husband she never greeted Jane or made any gesture she knew her.

Today is the day of the retirement for Jane but she remembers Anna and her bullying like it was yesterday. Even 40 years was not enough to forget or forgive and she secretly feels satisfaction over the fact that Anna is in a care home suffering from the Alzheimer’s.

“Karma” She thought when she closed the door of her work place for the last time.