A woman has been left toothless after her unchecked toothache turned out to be cancer.
Nicole Kowalski, 28, first started experiencing pain in her mouth back in 2017.
The student from Los Angeles, California, went to see a dentist but was brushed off and told it was nothing to worry about.
Six months later, the pain was only getting worse and was so bad that it made it impossible for Nicole to sleep.
In January, 2018, she went back and this time the x-ray showed that there was bone missing in her upper jaw. The dentist referred the student to an oral surgeon, who performed a biopsy and found that Nicole had a rare, benign tumour in her mouth.
Although the mass was not deadly, the blonde still had to undergo surgery to remove it, which involved taking out four of her teeth.
She was given an obturator to use, a prosthetic retainer fitted into the hole in her mouth post-surgery. Despite the necessity of this medical item, without which she wouldn’t be able to eat or talk, it is considered ‘unnecessary’ by the US healthcare system.
Unfortunately, this surgery was also not the end of Nicole’s misery.
During a check-up two weeks later, doctors discovered that she had salivary gland cancer.
Nicole said: ‘Cancer runs in my family so you kind of realise that the chance you might get it is always there but I wasn’t prepared to hear those words.
‘I thought about my age and all the things I wanted to do. I felt an immense sense of loneliness.
‘It started with a toothache. The dentist told me it was nothing to worry about but over the next six months, the pain increased and spread to my jaw and face.
‘It was so intense that I couldn’t sleep. Eventually after a few trips to the doctors, an x-ray at the dentists revealed some bone loss.
‘A biopsy revealed that I had a benign tumour. This was in my upper right jaw and I underwent surgery to remove it.
‘The doctor removed four teeth and a portion of my soft palate and I was given my obturator to fill in the defect and replace the teeth.
‘It wasn’t until I went back for my follow up appointment that I found out I was misdiagnosed and had salivary gland cancer.’
What followed was a month of radiation treatment, which in turn caused side effects including trismus – also known as lockjaw – a condition that makes the muscles spasm.
As a result, Nicole could barely open her mouth, and had to undergo physical therapy for her jaw as well as speech therapy.