I’m getting all of my wisdom teeth removed tomorrow morning. 8:30am.
My parents spent thousands of dollars on orthodontal work to get me to have a functional smile. From grade 3 till grade 10 I had all kinds of hardware in my mouth, expanding my jaw to make room for my teeth that were growing in all directions. Had my parents not spent that money, I would’ve looked like a shark. Given that I am inordinately vain, especially about my face – I think I am rather pretty – I am extremely grateful that they spared me from that shark fate.
I moved out in 2005. I failed at adulting, too busy trying to learn to survive on my own, not declare bankruptcy, figure out school. Typical early-adult struggle. I didn’t go to the dentist, because I didn’t particularly like dentists and I could feel one of my wisdom teeth growing and I didn’t want to hear that it needed to be removed. #denialskillsonpoint
2010. Two of my wisdom teeth had made an appearance. One became infected, really painful, causing the entire right side of my face to swell. Unacceptable! Emergency appointment at a high-end dentist downtown who prescribed antibiotics, took an X-ray, and advised me that not only are my wisdom teeth growing, they are growing in all kinds of shark-like directions, and one of them has its roots wrapped around the nerve that controls facial expressions. This would be a high risk surgery, because the risk of nicking the nerve and causing facial paralysis was extremely high. See a specialist, stat.
Excuse me, what? Facial paralysis?! I took the antibiotics and never called the specialist.
18 months later, I was due for a cleaning, and as Murphy dictates, my wisdom teeth were irritated and painful. Reluctantly, I dragged myself back to the dentist, mainly in the hopes that he’d prescribe me more drugs. He yelled at me for not having my wisdom teeth removed in the meantime. “Irresponsible! SO irresponsible. I told you. There are only 2 specialists in all of Montreal with the skill-set to remove that tooth. And they are busy. I told you. You are at risk of paralysis. And if you don’t get them removed, and the nerve gets infected, you are at risk of even more problems. GO SEE THOSE SPECIALISTS AND HAVE YOUR TEETH PULLED.”
So, I did what any adult with inadequate coping mechanisms would do. I pretended the problem didn’t exist, and tried my best to forget about it. I’ve done a fairly good job at ignoring it, despite sometimes having almost unbearable pain, and being unable to eat solid foods. But hey! At least I was still pretty and not paralyzed.
These past few months, as I’ve been struggling to get my health back on track, I began to consider going to a dentist. After all… not seeing a dentist for 6.5 years is not really best practice. But I felt I was at the limit of how many problems I could face, I didn’t want to hear that I had 45 new cavities, so I promised myself that I would deal with the dentist in the second half of 2018, once the rest of my life was under control.
Then I chipped one of my teeth eating a scone. Cue a hysterical meltdown. “I’m a terrible person, undoing all the money my parents spent on my teeth. What a brat I’ve been, I wonder how many cavities I’ve self-inflicted due to cowardice. OMG WHAT IF THE NEXT TIME ONE OF MY TEETH CHIPS IT’S A FRONT TOOTH?!”
That isn’t hyperbole. I ugly cried for 30 minutes, as I Googled the best ranked dental surgeons near my home.
That is how I found myself a few weeks ago in a dentist’s chair one block away from my apartment. The hygienist blinked when I told her it had been 7 years since I had a cleaning, rolled up her sleeves and got to work. She did a quick run through, and told the dental assistant that she’d have to do some cleaning before determining where the fillings were. I mumbled I didn’t have any. She stopped. “No fillings? And you have only seen a dentist twice in 13 years?” Yup. I told her of my previous experience with Dr. Doom-n-Gloom. She laughed. “Don’t you worry. Dr. Dentist here has pulled out thousands of wisdom teeth. He has seen it all. He will tell you if you are actually at risk of paralysis.” I nodded. She told me to open my mouth, so she could get back to world. I nodded. She waited. I told her I was scared my teeth were so fucked up she would chip them while cleaning them and then I would be disfigured. Twice I made her stop the cleaning. She thought it was because it was hurting me, or I had sensitive teeth. I explained that nope. Didn’t hurt at all. I just was so scared, I had trouble breathing. I needed time outs.
Dr. Dentist examined me. He looked at the X-ray. Good news: other than the molar that is next to the messed up wisdom shark tooth that has turned into a monster-cavity, I don’t have any cavities. I’m lucky. So we made an appointment for my wisdom teeth. Tomorrow. I told him I was really nervous. I asked for all the drugs. All of them. Knock me out, render me unconscious, because otherwise I will not survive this ordeal. I will have a heart attack from the fear that the Universe will use this opportunity to force me to deal with my vanity, by rendering me paralyzed. How could it resist? Even I find it funny, as a concept. And terrifying. I explained to Dr. Dentist, “Sir, I’m still single, you have no idea how brutal it is out there, nobody gives a shit about your personality, so if I am already having this much trouble while I am pretty, can you imagine how brutal it will be if I am paralyzed? Please sir. Please. Don’t paralyze me. I’m too young to be relegated to a life of loneliness and solitude. My face. You’ll take care of it?” He promised. He also admitted that usually he motivates his patients to take care of their teeth for health reasons, but in my case, he could see that I could best be manipulated through my vanity. And so, if I was so vain, surely I could see that smiles with receding gums were not attractive, so perhaps I would consider taking up flossing on a regular basis?
I’ve flossed every day since that visit.
He prescribed me all the drugs. All of them. Including a sedative so that I sleep tonight. Which I appreciate, except that now I have anxiety that I will sleep through my alarm and miss my appointment.