Last week I had a bottom back molar extracted. My dentist and oral surgeon just knew it as a molar that had to come out. But I knew the truth behind the tooth: it was pulled because of what I did as a teenager.
Here’s my confession.
Like many teenagers, I wore braces. Unlike many teenagers, I spent most of my free time volunteering at an animal hospital because I desired to be a veterinarian.
(Trust me, both facts are related.)
Wearing braces sucks. Besides enduring the physical pain of straightening crooked teeth, I had to cope with the braces and wires cutting me.
If you’ve ever had braces, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The orthodontist had given me wax to form over the offending hardware, thereby lessening the pain, but it was minimally effective. I kept swallowing or spitting out wax that had fallen off.
I endured this trauma for about a year until I decided to do something about it.
For several days, a wire had been cutting into my inside cheek. It hurt. I was at the animal hospital, of course, when I came up with a brilliant idea. I had been watching surgeries on dogs and cats for a couple of years, now, and decided that bending the wire with a sterilized surgical tool was the solution to my teenage-dental angst.
So, one day, I opened a pack of sterilized surgical tools, took a hemostat, and went into the bathroom to bend the wire cutting into the back of my mouth. What happened next was, as you predicted, a disaster.
I accidentally cut the wire.
The shock of my mistake reverberated in my mouth.
On my way to an emergency appointment with my orthodontist, I was scared. He was excellent at his craft, a perfectionist, but the stickler did not tolerate patients doing their own orthodontia work. He was shocked that my biting into a pretzel would’ve done this kind of damage (OK I lied to him).
To re-hardwire my braces, he had to do a lot of reworking. And in removing a metal cap around a lower right molar, it happened.
He accidentally chipped the tooth.
During my emergency appointment with my dentist, I felt regret as he filled the rather large cavity. “Um…you might eventually need a root canal on this tooth,” my dentist said.
Fear. I was petrified of getting a root canal.
Years after my braces came off, I did need a root canal and a crown on this tooth. Years after my root canal, I had an abscess that required surgical attention. And just last week, the tooth was pulled. I will need a bridge to create a façade of a real tooth.
Through this experience, I learned the following lessons that I’m happy to share with you:
1. Never practice orthodontia unless you are a licensed orthodontist.
2. Never practice orthodontia at an animal hospital.
3. Stay away from hemostats unless you are qualified to use them.
4. What you do as a teenager can haunt you as an adult.
5. If you mess with dental-related issues, tooth karma will come back to bite (or not bite) you.
6. Being unconscious for a tooth pulling is the way to go.
7. Don’t piss off dental professionals.