The week of Thanksgiving, I developed a pain in my left lower teeth and jaw.
“Crap!” I thought, “…my bad habits have finally caught up with me.”
You see, I must confess that I haven’t always been diligent about keeping up with my dental care. We didn’t have a lot of money in my childhood, and I never really got in the habit of going to the dentist with any regularity. And for most of my life, it really didn’t matter. I was 37 before I had my first cavity and filling, my wisdom teeth haven’t really bothered me, and all in all my teeth have held up well. So, I had not been to the dentist in almost ten years, and I was sure that my wayward ways were finally reaping what had been (or in my case, what had not been) sowed.
Thanksgiving week was tough. I was in pain throughout the week, which made eating Thanksgiving turkey interesting (a toothache is certainly an effective diet plan). Sometime during the week, I felt a bump on the back of my gums with my tongue, and I began to wonder if my wisdom teeth were finally acting up, or if I can some sort of infection. The bump grew, and by the time we headed home, it was a full fledged sore about the size of a dime.
When we returned to Nashville, I went straight away to the dentist. His assistant looked with horror when I informed her that I hadn’t been to the dentist in nine years, and took on that superior, “it’s payback time” look on her face. The dentist, who is a pretty good guy who has done a lot of work on Kay and the kids, came in and looked things over. “You don’t have any cavities,” he said. “Let’s get an X-Ray.”
When he came back after viewing the film he told me that there was nothing wrong with my teeth, in fact, my teeth were in great shape. I couldn’t quite believe it, but he affirmed that my teeth were the “same as they ever were.” However, he saw an odd spot on the jaw below the teeth and thought that I needed to see an oral surgeon, just in case.
So, the next day I headed with my x-rays to the local oral surgeon. He looked in my mouth and told me that I was the easiest diagnosis he had made all day. It turns out that a bit of bone in the jaw had “died,” separate from the rest of the jaw, and was working it’s way through the skin. “Give it a few days and it will come out on its own and you will be back to normal.” And I headed out with a smile, knowing that the problem was relatively minor.
The rest of the week, the teeth began to hurt less and less. However, as the pain moved from the teeth and jaw, it moved into the entire left side of my tongue. It was bad enough that I found myself avoiding food because it hurt to eat. After a week of this, I called the oral surgery doc again and he had me come back in.
After looking in my mouth a bit, he pulled out a tool and a tongue depressor and said “Let me know if this hurts you too much.” That is always a dangerous sign, and there was a point in poking and prodding when I came close to crying out when all of the sudden he straightened up and said “I’m through.”
On the tongue depressor was a sliver of bone that he had removed from my skin. The bone had been pressing on the tongue and the nerves around it and causing the pain. “You are cured,” he said. “Don’t come back to see me.”
The sliver of bone was about the size of the nail on my pinky finger. It had been floating around in the gums and was now free. The pain is now gone.
Thanks be to God for the wonders of modern medicine.
Photo courtesy of JasonRogers via Flickr