Sunday, February 3, 2013

Losing my Wisdom

The soup was delicious: homemade lentil vegetable with chicken.  I was savoring a mouthful when I suddenly realized that I had a hole in the back of my mouth!  It was a big hole and it wasn't supposed to be there.  I had broken off a tooth!  All that was left of my left lower wisdom tooth was a gaping hole extending down below the gum line and a sharp pointed "fang" that threatened to slice my tongue to ribbons.  Amazingly, I had no pain in my mouth at all.

It was Friday, of course, and the dentist is not in on week-ends.  He saw me as early as possible on Monday afternoon, and confirmed my suspicions.  "Yes, it's broken," he said, peering at a fresh X-ray.  "But it wasn't the filling that broke off; it was what was left of that tooth.  All that's left there now is the filling.  And it broke good and deep, below the gum line and it even took half of the root!"

That didn't really surprise me.   That tooth was seriously damaged fifty years ago in a motor bike accident when I was young and even more foolish than I am today.  It wasn't, however, the news I really wanted to hear.

"So, now what?" I asked.   He described to me in painstaking detail what would be required to restore that traumatized tooth.  All the steps he described sounded inconvenient, painful and expensive.

"What about pulling it out?" I said, hoping for a quick and painless fix.  He smiled with relief, and quickly said, "Yes, that's a better option.  I'll refer you to the oral surgeon next door and make an appointment for him to evaluate it."  Off he rushed to personally deliver his fresh X-ray of my mouth to his colleague.

Two days later I was sitting in the oral surgeon's very crowded office waiting my turn.  We waited, and waited.  We waited through lunch time and my stomach began to growl.  An hour and a half after my appointment time, I was called into the inner office, and things began to happen fast.

First, a panoramic (whole head) X-ray.  The technician groaned when she looked at it.  "The tooth is not only broken, it's infected.  It must come out."  Next, a detailed medical history was taken and entered into their computer system.  Finally, an office-nurse type sat down with us and said, "Your tooth is not only broken, it's abcessed.  It needs to come out as soon as possible.  When would you like to have it done?"

"How soon could it be scheduled?" I asked, expecting her to suggest a date several weeks or months in the future.  "How about this afternoon?" she inquired.  For once we had no afternoon plans for the day, so I was stuck!

Bruce went out to get some lunch while I sipped on some clear juice.  In less than an hour, I was ushered into the small "operating room" in the office complex and settled into the tilt-back chair.  A very helpful and efficient dental technician connected me to continuous monitors for blood pressure, EKG, and blood oxygen levels.   The dental surgeon came in, checked me out, and started an IV.  The next thing I knew, the technician was patting my face, calling my name, and saying, "Wake up.  It's all over.  The tooth is out."  The entire procedure had taken only about 15 minutes -- and with no pain.

Soon I was on my way home, gripping a gauze pad between my tooth and the hole.  Homegoing instructions and prescriptions for antibiotics and pain pills would get me through the following days of recuperation.

So, if the next time I see you I can't remember your name, or I get lost on my way home from the grocery store, please be patient with me.  Remember, I've just lost one fourth of all my wisdom -- or is it my wits?  I can't remember!