Thursday, May 17, 2012

Wisdom Teeth, Adulthood and Guilty Pleasure of Hope

Photo Credit: Morgue File by Emmi P.

Today's post is a characteristically bastardized response to the GBE2 prompt on Guilty Pleasures.

Eleven years ago, I was told they were impacted and had to come out. The first time they were scheduled for extraction, on arrival at the surgeon's office, my state insurance had been inexplicably cancelled. Phone calls had to be made, paperwork filled out, everything put back as it should be. We re-scheduled for a second time. But driving to the appointment, somehow we got lost, took five wrong turns and arrived too late for the procedure. This time, I did not re-schedule. So, they stayed in. I would live with them the way they were until–and if–they became so unbearable they forced me to reconsider.

Other teeth shifted forward to accommodate them, overlapping. Gums gaped angrily around their sharp penetration through spaces where they didn't fit. Food collected in pockets and I worked it out. Pus swelled up around them, and I parried it off with hydrogen peroxide and the edge of a fingernail. Sitting in a dentist's chair, five years from the date I had left that surgeon's office, I was told they had come through and that there was no need to remove them.

And so they have become one of my features. Brushing my teeth last night, I got the floss and worked out, as best as I could, the food that wants always to get trapped in my gum line, the bacteria that wants always to form, the blood that seeps out from the area which is still not a healed place, but is always somehow giving birth to these teeth, over and over–these teeth that do not fit.

I am keeping infection at bay. Keeping surgery at bay. Keeping pain at bay. Just far enough away that I can look at it through a pane of glass and see something that is still outside of my house, a few feet away. At just great enough a distance that I can feel safe. A great deal of niggling effort is expended keeping it all just there, a great deal of vigilance.

Had I, eleven years ago, submitted myself to the indignity of a third return to that office, to the embarrassment of being a twenty-five year-old woman who could neither get her Medicaid paperwork together or get herself to an office on time with nursing infant in tow, had I been willing to face the blinding pain of the extraction, these spots would be nothing but healed places in the back of my mouth. I could trace the smooth surface of them with my tongue. Had I paid then with the fortitude of maturity, I could reap now the benefit of having forgotten.

Instead, they stay with me. They assault with threat of infection and I win out, but the fight continues to go on, persisting always on the belief that I will ultimately prevail. Hope is a bloodied space in my mouth that I refuse to let go of. Next week, next month, next year, surely the damn things will be done raping the tissues of my gums and will let things lie. Surely, surely this is part of the transformation to wholeness that I must undergo. Surely I have not chosen, for no reason, to live with pain.

Admitting failure means that they will have to be removed, at long last, and the teeth pushed together to accommodate them will still remain crushed like crowds of Christmas shoppers, shoulders overlapped. Admitting failure means highlighting the pointlessness of the exercise of the last eleven years. Admitting failure means submitting to a sharp and overwhelming pain.

On balance, I might rather continue to gain some small satisfaction from being able to direct the pus and food particles, day after day, practicing the illusion of control. On balance, I might rather practice acceptance. They are my teeth. I love them. I chose them. It is too late now to unmake my choice. On balance, I might rather continue to persist in the guilty pleasure of hope, the counting of cars before the one you are waiting for, that lasts for years, the still observation that becomes a life already lived.

How long you can live with what seems must be taken out.


  1. I hope you continue to have luck keeping them.. Wishing no pain to you.

  2. I've lived with my impacted wisdom teeth for many years. I've grown fond of them, and accustomed to the pain. There was a time in which I considered having them removed, but heard to many horror stories since then.

    1. I think I'm with them for the haul. Well, who knows, but at lest it looks that way now. I have heard those horror stories, too. As I was dealing with them, I thought about how living with them is like so many things I choose to live with that maybe I should not have. These things hurt, but they are part of who I am.

  3. I still have mine. I had hoped they'd shove their neighbors forward and magically close the gap between my two front teeth, but somehow, at 50, the gap which I've alternately loved and hated, remains.


When you comment, it keeps fairies alive.

Don't forget to choose "subscribe by email" to receive follow-up comments. I almost always reply to comments, and you wouldn't want to miss that. It's all part of saving the fairies.

My Zimbio
Creative Commons License
Faith in Ambiguity by Tara Adams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License