Thursday, March 11, 2004

There's a Hole in My Head

Sometimes, life takes an unexpected turn. Right now I'm doing two things at once. I'm writing, obviously. I'm also in some rather superb pain. It all began about two yeas ago.

While stationed back at Ft. Polk, LA, I had to have a cavity filled in my number 2 molar. If you've had your wisdom teeth removed it would be the first tooth in the back on the upper right side of your mouth. Oddly, this is the tooth directly above my famous double root canal tooth. Well, when the dentist did that work he said that he would need to put in a temporary filling for reason blah blah and factoid yada yada dental talk. So he put in a temporary filling meant to stay there for about 6 months. 2 years later I returned to the dentist.

The dentist here in Korea is an excellent dentist who explained everything to me and proceeded to clean out the old "temporary" filling in Molar #2. Once done, he said something like, "OK. The good news is I got all the old filling out. The bad news is I have to pull that tooth." This was significant news for me. All of my wisdom teeth grew in straight and useable. I still have them. This was to be the first tooth pulled since I was about eight. Immediately, my stress level jumped to just slightly above ludicrous.

The tooth pulling process is a time honored process, steeped in tradition that begins by giving the victim papers to sign that outline some of the possible side effects of tooth extraction such as a broken jaw, the need to extract neighboring teeth, and an inability to chew for the rest of your life. Next, the dentist, wearing a black hangman’s hood, injects the victim with just enough anesthetic to ensure that his face is asleep while his mind stays alert. This ensures that the victim’s anxiety levels stay dangerously high.

The actual instrument of extraction looks very much like your standard wire cutters. This is very comforting. The peace that overwhelms the victim at having wire cutters jammed into their unnaturally wide open mouth is something that must be experienced to be understood. Once the dentist gets a good grip on the tooth in question, he simply and gently pulls, tugs, twists, and pry’s. Then he says, in a mocking / whispering tone, "You should feel a little pressure." Yeah, that's what I was thinking. A little pressure. To simulate how very little pressure I felt, grab your nose and gently push it into your mouth through the soft palette. I was certain my eyes would find their way into my throat. A little pressure.

But even then the pressure was not the worst part. One of the side effects of the kind of pain killer they use is that it heightens the sense of hearing. As a result, the sounds created in my head were among the grossest things I have ever heard. It was the sound of bone and sinew being slowly separated and torn. Crunching, tearing, ripping noises that bordered on nauseating.

Finally, just before my nose caved into my head I gave birth to a healthy molar. It's three roots fused into one which made extraction much easier than anticipated. It still had bits of gums attached and looked like a lumpy, blood covered bullet. I asked the doctor what the jagged little hard bumps on it were. He calmly said, "Oh, those are bits of your jaw bone." When I woke up...

So now there is a gap in my formerly uninterrupted tooth line about the size of my fist. So now instead of getting small bits of food stuck between my teeth, I get whole meals.