By Trent Rentsch
Funny thing, Karma. It pays attention, even when we don’t, and makes sure what goes around, comes around… even when we don’t intentionally set it in motion. Case in point, my mouth.
The back story is a bit ironic. My Father has been a Dental Technician his entire professional life. If you’re not hip to the world of the dental profession, that means that he spends his days sculpting artificial teeth to replace those natural ones that have left their owner’s mouth. It’s a Creative, painstaking art, really… reproducing nature, with the same coloring and shape, while assuring that one’s “bite” remains as natural as it was with the real tooth. These days, much of the work can be done with the aid of CAD programs and computer assisted construction, but Dad is old school… beginning by building up a wax sculpture, he casts the tooth in precious metal, then delicately paints it with layers of porcelain, firing it in a kiln to finally bring it to, well, life. Detailed work… I spent one summer running errands at the lab, watching him hunched over his Creations, and ran screaming as far away from the business as I possibly could. I’m proud of him and his work, but I barely have the patience to brush my own teeth.
Oddly enough, well into adulthood, it seemed that I’d never have need of his services. My teeth were pronounced “STRONG” by my dentist, and I never had a cavity as a child. I became a little cocky about it, really… to the point that, sometime in my 20’s, I decided that my superior teeth would last forever, and were above the feeble attentions of some silly dentist. Heavens, why waste their time and mine? Mine were teeth of steel!
I suppose I should have paid more attention to the first warning shot from karma in my 30’s. One of my wisdom teeth started bothering me, and when I finally gave in and went to the dentist, it was ruled a “goner.” Out it came, and in came pain for a couple of weeks. Still, there were NO cavities, and the hygienist marveled that I hadn’t had a cleaning in years. Obviously, the wisdom tooth was a rebel, and didn’t deserve a place in my mighty hall of enamel…
Years went by. The “unwise” tooth was forgotten and so too were follow up appointments with the dentist. I moved on, lived my life, and continued to take my lucky teeth for granted. Years became a couple of decades, which leads us to ow, er, I mean, now.
About a month ago, another wisdom tooth started hurting. Actually, hurting isn’t the word… throbbing is more like it. I tried to ignore it, but this pain wasn’t about to be ignored, or silenced with a couple of Advil. I finally gave in after driving to work one morning, barely able to see through the tears in my eyes. I called the Missus and said I needed a dentist. She didn’t come right out and say, “DUH,” at least, not on the phone, but she did give me the number of one that came highly recommended by someone at her station. I called, and they were able to get me right in. After some poking and prodding (and quiet sobbing), it was determined that I had a “periodontal infection,” of a tooth that “really needed to go.” Great, another rebellious tooth. I was given an antibiotic, a syringe and some stuff to “irrigate” the area with, and was told that we really needed to look at extraction in the near future. I left, safe in the knowledge that the pain would soon be a memory, and I could ignore the follow up visit. Of course, that’s not how karma works…
Instead of getting better, the pain got worse over the next week. Throbbing became a hot poker on the right side of my mouth every time I brought my teeth together. Back to the dentist I went… the follow up visit couldn’t come fast enough. More poking, more prodding… and it was determined that the molar next to my angry wisdom tooth was “dead.” The prescription? Root canal. And lucky me, they just happened to have an opening in their schedule that day... yeah, really lucky. I won’t gross you out with the details, but a root canal is about as nasty as it sounds… and the pain doesn’t just go away, it takes time to heal. A lot of time, in my case.
Another week, more pain, and it’s not fading. Another visit, and it’s decided that there must be something below the gum line that’s irritating both teeth, so I need a “deeeeep cleaning.” This takes about an hour and a half of digging down under my gums, bringing up all sorts of nasty tarter build-up (I think they found some Captain Crunch from a breakfast I had back in 1971), and basically making my mouth safe for my teeth to live in. “Now, you will still be a little sore for a few days,” my dentist cautioned. What the hell? I was already close to needing a rubber room… what’s a few more days.
That leads us to this week. Still sore, gums swelled up like bubble gum, I found my way back into the dentist chair. Remember the periodontal infection I started with? It is still hanging on. We are now trying steroids, and while the results are promising so far, I’m still holding my breath (and the side of my face).
I tell you all of this because you, like me, probably make at least part of your living talking. When your mouth is messed up like mine has been, talking is difficult (to say the least). You might like to avoid the dentist like I have over the years, but trust me… it’s a karmic time bomb waiting to disrupt your life and livelihood. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go floss…