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Dean George is the Marketing Specialist and Content Creator for Dental Insurance
Store and its social media channels. He is a regular contributor to Agent Straight Talk, the
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The Fireman, His Popcorn and a Close Call

Jan 21, 2020

By Dean George

Happy 2020, readers! Starting a brand-new year and a new decade is always exhilarating, and perhaps even more so for the subject of today’s post.

Adam Martin is a 41-year-old firefighter and father of three from Cornwall, England who now knows the importance of dental visits. Martin nearly succumbed to a heart infection which arguably could have been prevented by a visit to the dentist.

“If I had gone to the dentist in the first place then none of this would have happened,” Martin said according to a recent article at

Using the “20/20” hindsight available to anyone who has experienced a near tragedy or life-alerting event, oddly enough the story Martin shared began with an innocuous encounter with a popcorn kernel.

Back Story

Last September Martin settled in to enjoy a movie at home with his wife Helen while enjoying a bag of popcorn.

At some point a popcorn kernel got stuck between molars on the left side of his mouth. For three days Martin played MacGyver, using a variety of household objects to extract the nuisance from his teeth, including the cap from a stick pen, a toothpick, a piece of wire – even a metal nail.

Whether it was the nail or one of the other foreign objects frowned upon by the ADA, Martin nailed it alright when he damaged the gum in the area where the popcorn kernel was playing peek-a-boo.

A week later the professional firefighter and father of three began suffering night sweats, fatigue and headaches. Initially thought to be flu symptoms, Martin went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a mild heart murmur. Subsequent blood tests and x-rays showed nothing more than slightly high inflammation markers.

Adam was sent home with antibiotics but when his symptoms persisted and he developed a blood blister on his toe, he went to the Royal Cornwall Hospital on October 18.

“I had aches and pains in my legs, and I didn’t feel right at all,” he said in media accounts. “I had a feeling there was something seriously wrong. I was sleeping an awful lot and I felt terrible.”

The Diagnosis and the Fix

The muscle ache in his leg turned out to be an infected clot, wedged in his femoral artery. The blood blister was diagnosed as an external indication of infective endocarditis known as a Janeway lesion.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart or its valves. It’s usually caused by bacteria, or in Martin’s case, by infecting his gum and blood stream.

The infected clot required a five-hour operation to fix, and subsequent chest scans showed severe damage to his heart.

“My heart was not properly working anymore; it was essentially wrecked. The infection had eaten the valves away,” Adam said.

Three days later Adam was transferred to another hospital for a seven-hour open-heart surgery to replace his aortic and mitral valves.

Never Again

As we mentioned in a previous Dental Wire post, do-it-yourself dental treatment has been on the rise in many areas, including Great Britain. While this blog applauds self-initiative and the “can-do” spirit, that appreciation never applies when taking dental treatment in your own hands.

There’s a reason why dentists go to dental school! Would firefighter Adam Martin call a dentist to put out a house fire? Or would anyone call a plumber to fix the water pump in their car?

Adam’s wife Helen shared some sage advice with reporters based on her family’s terrifying experience.

“Any sign of a toothache, bleeding gums, an abscess – get it checked out,” she cautioned. “Your gums are a bacterial highway to your heart.”

Her relieved and wiser husband agreed.

“It was the worst experience of my life,” he said. That’s saying something for someone who puts their life on the line every call and fights fires for a living.

“At one point it was touch and go. I wasn’t far off death’s door and I am extremely lucky,” he confessed. “It’s crazy to think all this happened because of that (popcorn). It was something so trivial.”

The Moral of the Story

Regular dental check-ups are not only important, they can be lifesaving. If you don’t have a dental plan that helps with the cost of regular check-ups, click here. Thanks for reading Agent Straight-Talk and remember: “A smile is happiness you’ll find just under your nose.”

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Copyright 2020, Bloom Insurance Agency, LLC©

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