You can change a lot about yourself – your weight, hairstyle and habits – but you can’t change your height or the teeth you were born with.
Unfortunately, at 5-foot, 3-inches tall, I was not blessed in the former category. And as I’ve grown older I’ve found the latter is actually cursed.
Knowing this, I diligently visit the dentist for cleanings and exams. One tooth due for a crown for some time now finally was scheduled for it this summer. But a week before, an abscess formed. After an x-ray revealed a fracture in the tooth, I learned the thing would need to be removed.
Instead of showing up for a crown the following week, I was scheduled for the extraction two weeks later.
I failed to realize how much this would affect me until the time of this procedure. As I sat in the dentist’s chair last week listening to the assistant’s the post-operative instructions, tears began rolling down my face. I would lose a piece of me that’s served a necessary purpose for nearly my entire life, faithfully chewing food to keep me nourished every day.
And yet this was only a tooth. Many people have lost other precious body parts – limbs, breasts, for instance – and courageously carried on. But the loss seemed symbolic of my aging body and mortality. Somehow, it was like losing a friend.
The experience also led to another realization.
As the oral surgeon struggled with the tooth, I knew then I could never have his job. Wrenching teeth out of people’s mouths is just unnatural – it rallies against every instinct. And the patient losing the tooth, along with the surgeon, must feel this, obviously, because every muscle in her body is tense, her eyes are clamped shut, and she’s whimpering just a little as the surgeon yanks pieces from her jaw.
Then there’s the whole idea of putting one’s hand inside of stranger’s mouth.
I’m sure this oral surgeon was well paid – and by all means should be. And I’m sure he knows that despite the trauma, the outcome will be for the best. This wasn’t a healthy tooth and was causing other problems. Extracting the tooth was a healthy solution.
I’m still getting used to the space where this molar has been since I was just a kid. Eventually, I’ll get a bridge or an implant to replace it, and the extraction will be just a distant memory.
As I write this, I’m grateful for my vocation, one that avoids other people’s mouths, one that feels instinctively constructive each day.
Yes, some interviews with sources can be like pulling teeth, but thank heaven, they’re not the real thing.