« Wisdom To Spare »

In early 1996, I started my admittedly shameful record of dental appointments. Well, that is if you ignore the three year interval between the previous visit whilst on my old man's work insurance, and the self-funded trip of May 1996. It was at least that far back when I was first told I would need deep scaling and also got a recommendation (but not a prescription) to get my wisdom teeth pulled. At that point, I am pretty sure they had not erupted at all, but given that I had already had orthodontics done some years before, he cautioned that that work might be undone in part due to shifting geography. These two suggestions really just put the fear of God in me and so I met them with utter contempt and did my best to stay away from dentists for eight years. I did so well indeed that I never went once until maybe the middle of 2004. And then it was that the scaling that I avoided in '96 was finally critically necessary. It got done shortly before my wedding in August of 2004, thanks to my job then offering an effective dental plan. I remember it being far less agonizing than it had been made out to be. I don't want to minimize it; but it didn't seem so bad except in sheer volume of crud. Nothing was said about the gums, but they were in bad shape then.

Then there was that three year interval until last summer when basically the whole thing had to be redone, and this time the gums were far worse off for that added time. I had to face it: it was this or start watching teeth go. (At least I had some insurance through my job then, and then the COBRA after they cut me free almost as soon as I even got eligible.) And of course you can read in this journal how I had to get the surgery done to make that right. And from the periodontist, the message was reiterated: I need to get those wisdom teeth out. This time is was not speculative about the damage they might do. Three had long since erupted. Two on the right came in in remarkably good form, but the left top is not erupted at all and the bottom left juts forward and upward and has forced other teeth around a bit and made it hard to clean between it and its second molar neighbor, possibly leaving a cavity at a point where they meet. Between this one that was an obvious problem and the two that are otherwise fine but almost impossible to reach with regular cleaning tools, it was time to move to plan B. My way hadn't worked.

I've been getting regular non-insured cleanings on two or three month intervals to stay ahead of things. (The better way to go since HMO plans are crap and give only the basics. So I agreed to pay out of pocket like I always should have been doing all along so I can get more time in the chair.) This last time around, the dentist told me to get the wisdom teeth out finally and prescribed me a consultation at a wisdom tooth-harvesting surgeon—where Kelli had just gone to get one of her wisdoms taken out a month ago. It was a mixed feeling to hear this. All the apprehension of my 22 year old self revisited me. But the present, post-gum surgery me said, ah, finally dude, get that shit behind you. So here I am.

I got a few days off from work so that I might finally get past this ordeal and at least put some of this dental drama to rest, and I reasonable expect, to raise some new issues. So far I haven't been jumping out of my skin at the prospect like I was about the gum surgery. Maybe it is because wisdom teeth extractions are so common, but maybe it is because I've offloaded a great burden in just getting past the first wave of surgeries last year and adopting some new habits, and that this new procedure is just part of that trend. At least with the four-at-once procedure, it won't drag on like it did for two weeks of repeated surgeries because my blood pressure was too high to do the gum surgery in two passes instead of four. Last time I was jumping out of my skin, even on the second-, third-, and final stages, despite knowing the routine. This time, it is all done in an hour and I get to go to sleep for it :-)

Maybe now that I have all these wisdom teeth, I am a bit wiser. But the irony is not lost on me. It would have been wiser to get this done 12 years ago. Grrrr. Oh well, you don't get wise by making the right decision at all turns.

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