Miracle. All of it.

7:45 am. Yesterday morning. X-ray reviewed. Referral made to Oral Surgeon: “Young guy, really good, my patients really like him.” I return home and wait for phone to ring.

How long has it been? 6 months? 9 months? A year? Same dentist is grinding down the jagged edges of a broken wisdom tooth, bottom left. “You should get it pulled. It’s only going to get worse.” The answer was reflexive: “No.” Somebody wanted it there. It’s been there for more than 50 years. ‘Til death do us part. A small grin builds from left to right, as if to say: “Have it your way.” Yes, your patient is the same guy who refused teeth whitening, the crown-replacement, the mouth guard for night-time teeth grinding and anything but the basic maintenance program.

So it was. My tongue started working on the foreign. The new. The crack. The edges. The gap. Sliding over and around the edges, into the crevice, into a pocket, a repository for nubs of pistachios, bitty kernels of popcorn and hard corners of raisins – working to remove what the brush and floss failed to accomplish.

Months later, this thing turns to a low throb, exacerbated by my latest food obsession, crunchy granola. By the bags. Upper and lower teeth hammering on the hard grains, nerve endings pressure tested.

Then comes the Night. The low throb turns to a searing pain, the left ear aching and can’t bear to hold a 1/2 oz ear bud to pipe in a podcast, a playlist or any form of distraction.

So, here we are. My partner of more than 50 years has to come out. My other partner of more than 30 years is driving us up I-95 N. to an office park in Norwalk. Three giant buildings. Hundreds of offices. Hundreds of cars. What are all these people doing here?

We step through the door and start the machinery of paperwork, insurance, releases, medical history. I wait for 20 minutes and get called in.

“Allergies? Healthy? Tobacco? Alcohol?” When I say No, Yes, No and 1 drink a quarter, the frequency evokes a pause. Not sure where that strange answer came from, but it’s directionally accurate.

He couldn’t be more than ~35, biceps bulging from his short sleeved shirt. Should a surgeon be this buff?

“Laughing Gas or Local.” Not wanting to sound like an idiot, I ask him what he suggests. “Well, clients who are a bit anxious about the surgery usually opt for gas.” “Gas it is then.” When did I become so anxious? In my 20’s I would have said: grab the pliers, pull the damn thing out and get me out of here.

“You’ll feel a tingling, in your fingers, and in your toes. Like pins and needles. Then you’ll be floating, like you’re high.” His assistant struggles to strap on the gas apparatus. “He’ll need something bigger.” Jesus, the big nose jokes never seem to cease.

“Breath deeply through your nose. In and Out. In and Out.” The Nose apparatus feeds in gas, the tingling starts as described and I’m floating.

“Tap me here if you need a break.” The Surgeon and assistant are circling. Hands in mouth. I’m edging to claustrophobia and turn to the window. Blue sky, bright sunlight, and I float. And I float.

He sees his motionless patient begin to move — still hands squeezing into fists, still feet now tapping. “Are you ok? You’re going to feel some pressure now.”

A startling surge of emotion floods over me. Has to be the gas. Has to be. I’ve never met this man, now he’s feeding gas into me and reassuring me that this procedure is almost done.

“Nice job!”

It’s 12 hours later. 9:15 pm. I’m in bed, in that zone between awake and dreamland. I think I hear the phone ring. I think the answer machine picks up.

“Hello. This is Dr. T. I’m just calling to check in to see how you are doing. I’m going to leave you my cell phone number in case you need me. Don’t hesitate to call.” I must be dreaming. Can’t be.

I get up at 2:30 am. Pan through my smartphone for the headlines. Trump. Bolton. Trump. Putin. Trump. School Shootings. Guns. Trump. Opioid crisis. A swirling mess.

My tongue gets back to its routine, runs across the back teeth, wisdom tooth gone and in its place, his dissolvable stitches.

I walk downstairs. I see the answer machine flashing red. A message. I hit play. It was him. He really did call. Good people. Doing excellent work. Who give a damn. With no bullsh*t.

Miracle. All of it.


Notes:

  • Photo – Ryan McGinley with “on the devine” via wepresent.wetransfer.com
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.
  • Inspiration: Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Comments

  1. freddiegeorgia says:

    So painful…you letting go of this attachment you have for your teeth…like a rotten love story. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Ice for the swelling…feel better

    Liked by 1 person

  3. yes, every single bit of it – there’s your reality show and you were the star.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So well written Dave … I was with you all the way. Be grateful you have a great oral surgeon for later on. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Good people. Doing excellent work. Who give a damn. With no bullsh*t.”

    They shine bright like a star, in the dark sky!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Great writing! I’ll have to make this journey soon, but just like you I’m waiting for the “signal”. Thanks for the encouragement, DK. Floating doesn’t sound that bad.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Share this with that bulging biceps young oral surgeon ~ I’d bet he’d be thrilled 🙂

    and isn’t it amazing how we sail through life, blissfully unaware of such tiny things until … da dumm dumm … they emerge and rage war on us? Then that tiny piece of tooth becomes a hidden soldier left behind, causing pain and pounding?

    Happy healing!
    MJ

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Dude… why so attached to a tooth? 😉
    As I had had braces, all 4 of mine had to come out – 2 of them impacted. Wish I’d been offered the gas because he had a helluva time freezing me. One side was stubborn (heart side – hmm wonder what that meant?)
    And I didn’t get a “hope all is well call”! That is fabulous indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Laughing. I’m looking at your Avatar, with your gleaming rows of pearly whites – no doubt that that beautiful mouth and face is a product of some significant dental care.

      Yes, the call was something. Wow…

      DK

      Like

  9. Glad that you made it through this experience unscathed, pal, and now will no longer need to worry with that tooth. Any sort of surgery is so traumatic. Glad that you had a good guy at the helm. And you’re right, they seem to be more scarce with every passing year. My brother is very solicitous of his patients — believes in lots of face time, talking things through, reassurances, check-ins, all of it. I think it’s very wise. What’s routine for him is terrifying (and often a once-in-a-lifetime procedure) for patients. Important not to lose sight of that….

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh Lord, teeth! They are so wonderful when they’re working but such murder when they’re not. I swear that if it wasn’t for dentists, opticians, and vets, I would be comfortably off on the financial front. Had to spend about £600 sterling at the end of last year, having three old fillings (large ones) replaced because all three of them were throbbing at once. Managed to catch them just in time, so no absesses, extractions, or antibiotics. We put these things off at our peril. It’s actually very dangerous to do so, which means I’m heartily relieved to know that you’ve survived the experience of leaving things a bit late. As for granola, I don’t even go down that route — not with a crown on both sides of my mouth. Porridge oats are lovely and soft, and are easy on the jaw. I hope you make a speedy recovery and can leave off the gruel 😉 Homeopathic Arnica is good for speeding along healing, provided it goes with whatever other medication you’re on. Best to check with the doctor. I would hate to make you have a relapse. Love and prayers x

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Glad it’s behind you now. Life goes on. Better.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. crying…. I’m not laughing at your pain, its your writing. Brilliantly written, just way too funny. I nearly choked.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve had one like this one – a real goodie! He is now my regular guy… dentist.
    Says: Call if any probs, I’m here for you anytime! I haven’t had need to call, but, I know he’ll be there…. Lordy; where has he been all my life?

    Liked by 1 person

  14. What did you get from the Tooth Fairy?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. If I have a complaint against the creator, its teeth. He blew it. Should have given us 3 sets. Very shortsighted.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nothing like dental pain to pull us front and center. It’s all we’ve ever really had to go to doctors for, around here. Front tooth ripped out in Hawaii’s surf 25 years ago. 10 years until implants became common enough for me to get one – all the temporary crap in the interim. We all had wisdom teeth extracted when we were much younger due to crowding and even then, the girls needed braces. Genetics(!)

    You are such a good writer, David. I love your stories. Of course you’ve seen Marathon Man back in the day … 😉 Aloha.

    Like

  17. Sorry for late reply – hadn’t even had time to read it all – now I have – what a ‘trip’! And with a sister as well as a friend who just told me (last week actually) about THEIR horror trips with their wisdom teeth, I really ‘needed’ this story like a hole in my teeth 😉
    I had mine out at a young age and it was awful then – NO doctor calling me – that fact really did me in! A doctor calling his patient? You should give him a golden needle (sic! – obviously to stick to his lapel…) for his caring services!

    Liked by 1 person

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