When Dr. James Campo thinks of a patient’s “worst case scenario,” he envisions a very specific situation — and unfortunately, it’s one he’s encountered more than once.
“It’s never easy telling someone they’re going to lose all their teeth,” he said. “In the past 17 years, it’s not something I see every day, but it has happened.”
After graduating from Louisiana State University School of Dentistry with a doctorate in dental surgery, Campo completed a residency at the University of Mississippi in Jackson, where he frequently treated cardiac transplant patients.
“Often, the first thing you’d have to do is pull all the patient’s teeth so that you don’t risk the new heart getting infected,” Campo said.
However, the toughest incident came after his residency, when he moved back home to New Orleans. He recalled a visit from a patient who was in his mid-40s and had never before been to a dentist.
“He said he just wanted to get his teeth cleaned, but he had multiple health issues like heart trouble and diabetes,” Campo said. “The guy was small. He didn’t look like he should have a lot of those problems.”
Then the patient opened his mouth, and Campo said he realized that the only thing holding the teeth in place was plaque buildup.
“It probably started off as gum disease and just got to the point where every tooth was infected. It was difficult because I had to tell him, on the first time he walked into a dental office, that he was going to lose all his teeth,” Campo said. “And I told him, ‘Believe it or not, a lot of your health issues are probably coming from this, and you’ll feel a million times better once we do it.’”
Despite some initial hesitation, the patient agreed to have the teeth removed and replaced with dentures. After several months and two rounds of antibiotics, Campo said the patient looked “like a new man.”
“When he came by six months later, he told me his blood pressure went down, his diabetes was under control and he was getting married,” Campo said. “He stopped by to thank me!”
Campo said that although those kinds of situations are tough at first, the feeling of helping a patient through a difficult time is what he loves most about his job.
“We see a lot of different things and do a lot of different things,” he said, “but the best part is just getting to take care of different kinds of people.”
2215 S. Carrollton Ave, 866-0681, NewOrleansDentistoffice.com
17 years in practice; DDS from Louisiana State University School of Dentistry; Native of New Orleans