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Happy New Year?

Welcome to 2022! I am particularly happy to be able to write this pain-free with a smile, because I experienced terrible dental pain for the last few days of 2021. After having two teeth extracted in October, I assumed that was the end of my dental problems, until I started getting episodes of facial pain again, which were getting more severe with time. By the end of the year, I was taking very strong pain killers to be able to carry on working. As someone who is not keen on taking tablets, my husband was very concerned and urged me to go back to the dentist for an x-ray. We wondered if there was damage to my jaw from the traumatic extractions in October. I had been back to dentists a few times after the oral surgery and wound complications, but was told by dentists and a dental hygienist that the gum wounds had healed and the remaining teeth were healthy. It was frustrating to be experiencing so much pain with no clear answer. My doctor agreed to treat me for sinusitis with antibiotics in the meantime, but I was dreading being told that this would be a continuous issue because of possible nerve damage.

After a very bad night of poor sleep due to pain, I managed to see a dentist after working as a GP (family doctor) myself that day. It is amazing how much self control and strength humans can have, to be able to care for someone else when they are in pain themselves. In the Covid19 pandemic, many healthcare workers have had to work through their own health problems due to staff shortages, making it difficult to take time off as you wish. After two whole years of this pandemic, we need to appreciate more what the National Health Service (NHS) is doing, especially those working in acute settings and administrative roles. I just want to say a big thank you to all my colleagues this year for your support and service to the public. This will not be the year that we give up - please stay strong. It can be hard to take time off, but if you really need to, don’t feel bad or ashamed. I took a whole week off with my dental problems in October, and am very thankful to have been able to work while using painkillers in December, when it was even busier.

My prayer before going to the dentist this time was that he should have wisdom to find the cause of this problem, so I can be pain free. I remembered all my excessive chocolate eating while at university and wondered if it was worth this pain. I remembered all the times I skipped dental check ups because I hated seeing dentists and sometimes, just did not want to pay for that. There is always more wisdom with hindsight, which is why I made time to share this story. Prevention is better than cure. I do not drink coffee or alcohol like most people, but sweets and chocolates have been my pleasure. The pain is definitely not worth it, and I am starting this new year with better habits. It is never too late to change, even after losing a few teeth! I had family and friends praying for me, and I had faith for a miracle, even if Christmas was over. Miracles are not just a Christmas thing. 2021 showed me so much of the power of prayer. If you read my book, 2020 Year of Plenty, you would know what we went through, and I can say now with gratitude that 2021 came with so many answers to those prayers, in better ways than I imagined.

The dentist checked my teeth again and could not find a cause initially. He then decided to xray deeper into the corner of my mouth because he suspected there might be a hidden hole in one of the wisdom teeth. It was very sensitive and reproduced my pain when he tested it, and we were both so relieved when a second test confirmed his suspicion. He asked if I wanted to have it removed there and then (on New Year’s Eve) or come back in the new year. You can imagine my shock, because I had still not recovered from the trauma of the extractions in October, which took almost one hour. I asked if he could just do a filling, but that was not an option with the hidden position of the affected tooth and hole. It was now my choice whether I wanted to deal with the problem or get stronger painkillers to mask it. I took a deep breath and asked him to go on. My quick prayer to God was that it should be quick and painless this time. That seemed impossible after the very painful experience I had before - I thought my jaw was going to unhinge! Apparently my teeth were solidly fitted when God created me.

I am pleased to tell you that it took less than five minutes to get the problem tooth out, and I have been pain free from that moment until now. The hole in the tooth was impressive to see! I did not have to take any analgesia even after the local anaesthetic wore off - not even paracetamol. I am convinced this is an answer to prayer, but I had to take the step of faith to say YES and see it happen. This experience made me think about the new year ahead of us. There will be challenges and choices we have to face, we will have said prayers and have dreams, but we sometimes need to be brave to take steps and see the outcomes we desire. What decisions are you facing at the moment? Some might involve pain before pleasure, others might involve making difficult changes or working hard for those goals. A happy new year does not mean there will be no problems, but we can make it a happy new year by how we choose to respond to the challenges. I hope we will not be held back by fear or past experiences as we head into 2022. If we want to grow and see progress in different areas of our lives, we need to be willing to do things we have never done and overcome fears we have always had. It does not have to be something major - even little changes can have a great impact when we are intentional and positive. Someone once said that we get what we expect. I wish you a great new year, and good health for you and your family.

Dr Afiniki Akanet -

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