Gaining Wisdom

I need to get my wisdom teeth pulled. When I mention this to a friend, she says, "Don't people usually do that when they're younger?"

Sadly, yes. I've been hanging on to these choppers for more than twenty years.

My wisdom teeth erupted when I was in my mid-twenties. At the time I was juggling three jobs. I had no dentist and no insurance, but I did extract some free advice from a dentist who hung out at the lounge where I tended bar. He told me not to worry since my teeth were not impacted, and ordered himself another beer.

Time passed. Eventually, I could afford actual dental care, but still I was hesitant. Okay, I was afraid. I told myself that by keeping my teeth, I was embracing a "natural" approach to dental health. I found a dentist who didn't pressure me. My wisdom teeth were fine for a long time, but then, right after I turned forty, they suddenly weren't. I'll spare you the ugly details -- suffice it to say that even straight, fully-erupted wisdom teeth can eventually cause a ruckus.

"Block out two weeks for recovery, " my dentist warned. "People your age don't bounce back that well."

People my age?! Two weeks?! Those words terrified me. Who was going to take care of my three manic children? My husband and I have no family nearby to help us. Anxiety about the pain, excessive Googling of "risks of wisdom tooth removal," worry over the family logistics, and just managing the flurry of daily life allowed me to put off dealing with the problem.

I stalled for two more years.

Then, out of the blue, I shocked myself. I scheduled the procedure without any drama. My husband arranged to work from home for a couple days. Plans for the kids were set. After twenty years of procrastination, I felt ready overnight. I'll get through this, I told myself; John and the kids will deal. I imagined a few days of sleeping, reading and watching movies, possibly even losing a couple of pounds on the soup-and-smoothie cleanse. I thought my new matter-of-fact bravery about something that wasn't even that big of a deal meant I was making some spiritual progress.

Then it all fell apart.

Last night, I had to take my nine-year-old daughter Didi to the ER, after a fall at soccer practice left her sobbing and unable to move her right arm. My husband felt sure she was fine, but I sensed something was really wrong. Five xrays later, it turns out we were both right: the arm was not broken, but the shoulder was badly sprained. Didi trudged off to school today in a sling.

The removal of my wisdom teeth was supposed to happen tomorrow morning. After the ER run, John assured me that he could still handle one incapacitated wife, one injured child on narcotic pain meds, and two more wild children, plus homework, school, soccer, meals and his paying job. I opted to push off the procedure until January 6. I'll be taking Didi to the pediatrician for a follow up on her arm instead.

Am I really just a coward? Is family life really that hard? Ask me how many teeth I have on January 7.


  1. I got mine out last year (I'm 35). I'd been avoiding it for twenty years, too. My wisdom tooth guy (here in OC if you're local) was awesome. The whole thing was no big deal, a big fat nothing after two decades of procrastination. And I ate lots of tomato bisque from the deli without any guilt over the fact that it's pure cream, so that was a bonus. I was fine in a day, but I ate soup for three.

  2. I am 29 and got mine out about a year ago. One of my brothers and sisters had what I viewed as horrible experiences and I was scared to death. And to top it off, I found out the day of that it would be split into two apointments!!! I was not happy. Being a single mom, I had no idea how I was going to take care of my one year old during both my recoveries. During my first appointment they took 2 of them out and it was a piece of cake. I think I took some tylenal or ibuprofen a little before my appointment and that's all. I drove home, ate some spaghetti o's, and even hosted a baby shower the next morning with no problems. I share this with you in hopes that it would encourage you; some people have bad experiences, but also, some are good. You can do it!!!!


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