Maureen woke up one day in early November with pretty significant ear and throat pain. She called in sick and texted her husband that she was headed to urgent care. After an initial exam, they immediately sent her to the hospital emergency department.
"I knew things were bad, because when I got there, they took me in before a guy with a bleeding head wound," recalled Maureen, who was diagnosed with a severely infected tooth abscess and jaw infection.
A few hours later, Maureen (who prefers not to share her last name) was in surgery at Highland Hospital, where an otolaryngologist, also known as an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, was draining the abscess. But it was soon discovered that the infection was more widespread than initially thought, and had originated in a section of her lower jaw bone and teeth. Her care now required the expertise of an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, so she was transferred to Strong Memorial Hospital.
Without further treatment, Maureen's condition would have worsened and infection could have spread to adjacent spaces of the neck," said Pooja Gangwani, DDS, MPH, Maureen's oral and maxillofacial surgeon and assistant professor at URMC's Eastman Institute for Oral Health.
A second procedure was needed, where Dr. Gangwani removed the infected jaw bone, drained the abscess and addressed the source of infection. Maureen stayed at Strong Memorial Hospital for close surgical follow up and medical management for about a week, and continued taking antibiotics at home.
Because Maureen was at risk for such an infection in other areas of her oral cavity, Dr. Gangwani recommended a comprehensive procedure to prevent another painful visit to the emergency room in the near future.
Maureen accepted Dr. Gangwani's recommendation and scheduled a surgical procedure in April to remove the rest of the infected teeth. When Covid 19 hit and delayed her surgery, she was thankful she was able to continue consults with Dr. Gangwani through Zoom, email and phone calls.
"My appointments through teledentistry were more than just a consult," she said. "Before, I wasn't paying attention to the signs of my infection, but now I'm hyper vigilant if something doesn't feel right."
Like so many people, Maureen experiences anxiety when it comes to doctor and dentist visits. But Dr. Gangwani quickly earned her trust and significantly eased her fears.
"Dr. Gangwani is definitely one of those doctors who takes a sincere interest," Maureen said. "She's truly listening to what I'm saying. I wish I could have her for everything."
Maureen has since had her final surgery and is healing well. Even though the hospital is back open for all appointments, she really appreciates the tele-health technology.
"I wish I could do a lot more appointments through tele-health," Maureen added. "Not only does it minimzie exposure risk, but you don't have to take as much time off work, and it saves drive time and parking. It's such a great convenience."