Don’t doubt that little things matter. It’s a good thing this isn’t a podcast. I’d have to talk around a wad of gauze. Instead, I’ll type while pondering the new hole in my mouth. All because of one popcorn kernel in the wrong place with a bit too much pressure. Crack. Ouch. And yet, not too bad, considering.
Brushing and flossing may be necessary for dental health. (I wonder what the equivalent is for mental health.) But, brushing and flossing don’t guard against accidents. Preventative measures don’t prevent every possibility.
It’s common enough. Doing something simple can interrupt the best planned and maintained lives. A twisted knee while cleaning, a trip or a slip while walking down slick stairs, an accident while sitting still in a car but getting hit by someone not paying attention. Despite a daily deluge of do this or don’t do that, all the good advice can’t counter the fact that bad luck happens. That’s part of life. A soft, accident-free life teaches less. That doesn’t mean go chase danger for the lessons; but think of the strongest people you know. They probably have stories to tell.
Me, I’m sitting here typing to try and ignore a soggy ball of something probably fancier than cotton.
I’m actually quite fortunate, at least related to this tooth. It cracked over a decade ago. Nothing dramatic. Just enjoying popcorn and a movie at home when one bite obviously went wrong. It hurt, but there wasn’t any evidence of something to worry about. The next time I went to the dentist he finally had an excuse to use his new flexible digital microscope. There it was, a barely-noticeable hairline crack in one of my far-back molars. It was a bit sensitive, but paying a few thousand dollars for a root canal and or a crown was too expensive. I’d wait for my portfolio to recover and then get something done.
Years of visits, each time an opportunity to mention its sensitivity; but too much money for too little discomfort.
Years. Years. Years. Until last year.
Last year, there were a few days when I was incapacitated with pain. All I could do sometimes was stand in the middle of the room and not move, waiting for the next wave to recede. I scheduled an emergency appointment, but I think it was over a weekend. By the time I was in the chair, the worst was gone. But I worried. Would I have to find thousands of dollars for the repair? Evidently, no. The dentist pointed out that the tooth could be extracted for under $200. Even that wasn’t affordable; but I was glad to hear it. Why hadn’t the other dentist mentioned the possibility? Maybe he did. I decided to wait.
Last week I got paid. That’s not the first real estate transaction I’ve closed, but it finally happened soon enough after another one that I could reasonably pay that bill. Besides, since the previous year’s episode, it was a daily ache, not a pain, just an ache. OK. There was that one day when a popcorn hull wedged itself down into the gum line – and that’s probably already too much information. That hurt. Since then, the ache grew.
It’s an interesting thing, doing something innocuous but unknown. The last time I had a tooth pulled was about 1970, and those were wisdom teeth that had to be extracted in a hospital. (Upon reflection, I wonder if my mother was talked into putting me through unnecessary surgery.) What happens when a tooth is pulled? How long does it take to heal? That was a hospital stay with some very unpleasant side effects. Am I over-reacting as I worry about infections and jaw pain, or will it all subside?
Drop back into frugal considerations. The crack lived for years. I spent too much time tending it, eating around it, updating dentists on its condition, basically carrying it along for too long. I didn’t feel like I had the money to spend; but I realized how much time I was spending, instead.
The visit was less than an hour and less than $200. Fortunately, I finally had the time and the money. Let’s see how much time my tongue spends probing the new hole. The geek in me asked for the tooth because I am fascinated at how our bodies grow and heal. That came out of me? Don’t worry. I won’t include a photo. Ick.
My jaw is sore, which is probably more from me clenching my teeth for the last few weeks and also through a squirmy part of the visit. (My fault, plus the jab of a needle that was too on target. Doc, that twinge went away, just as you said it would.)
My jaw is sore because I was unconsciously guarding the tooth, sometimes clenching down to keep things in place. Add some work-related stress, and those jaw muscles got a workout. I doubt that they burned significant calories, though. I didn’t notice the clenching until I took my first four day vacation in over three years last week. Relax, relax, relax, or notice what isn’t relaxing, relaxing, relaxing. I’m looking forward to relaxing my jaw, which will probably help my smile, which might help my attitude on glum days.
Not only is it too easy to carry small pains for too long, sometimes it is necessary. I suspect everyone is carrying more than a few, whether they are medical, dental, or mental. Ideally, we can shed them and live a freer life; but not every pain can be extracted and discarded as readily as a damaged tooth. Even the pains that can be removed can leave a hole that must heal, and even after the healing we may notice the evidence of what was there before.
Brush, floss, exercise, pay bills, do laundry, do those chores we’re all supposed to do; but remember that life delivers unavoidable upsets. If we’re lucky, we can extract them at the right time with the right help.
For now, I’m looking forward to relaxing (which is difficult with a bandage in my mouth). Instead of my normal popcorn snack, though, I’m thinking yogurt tonight, oatmeal tomorrow, soup for lunch – some softer living for a while.