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PARTING SHOT: The Great Wisdom Teeth Experience of 2019
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PARTING SHOT: The Great Wisdom Teeth Experience of 2019

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How do you go decades without having your wisdom teeth pulled?

That’s a question I’ve been wrestling with during the last week when I’ve been in pain after having it done.

“Usually, you get them out when you’re a teenager,” I’ve been told more times than I can count. Apparently, I was too busy back then or the idea of someone grabbing my teeth with a pair of pliers was just too unbearable.

Throughout the years, my dentist has suggested he pull them, but held off because they were still fill-able. I went along with that because I would rather face the drill than the excavator. When he retired (and passed me on to someone else), those darn teeth came up again.

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“You should have those out,” my new dentist said and promptly sent me to an oral surgeon and a gum specialist. I was able to talk both of them out of the procedure. My line of thinking: Two out of three dentists recommend keeping your wisdom teeth.

“Someday you’re just going to have to do it,” my dentist said. I took care of those babies like crazy. Sure, it felt like I had teeth near my ears, but they hung in there.

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And then?

One of them chipped and the “there’s nothing more we can do to save it” speech came out. I read everything I could about “older” people having their wisdom teeth out and freaked when I got to the part where there could be some permanent numbness.

“No one but you will notice it,” I was assured. But I could just see my face contorting into some version of the Joker. As a child, I was warned not to make too many faces because “it just might turn that way.” As an adult, I was convinced it would.

Bravely, I opted to be knocked out so I wouldn’t know what happened.

I signed papers (that absolved the oral surgeon from all those heinous things that could happen) and sat back.

When I woke, I was groggy – and ready for a good nap – but I didn’t feel much pain.

Instead, I got a list of instructions for the weekend and a prescription for pain medication. Thinking I didn’t want to be a double statistic – an older person with an opioid addiction and a mangled face – I settled on over-the-counter remedies and, thanks to a great friend, got home.

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There, I sat, gauze firmly placed in my mouth. What I realized was I hadn’t eaten for the better part of a day and I couldn’t really rely on the four main food groups – chips, Cokes, candy and fries. I’d have to have something soft. But what?

For a week, I went cold turkey on everything I loved. I ate so many mashed potatoes I was sure I’d turn into a Thanksgiving turkey. I made the rounds of Jell-O, ice cream, shakes and pancakes, but nothing was as good as a chip. I went through such Ruffles withdrawal I secretly thought I should lick one just to remember how good it tasted.

My jaws hurt, my head ached, my body drooped and I was ready to be done with the great Wisdom Teeth Experience of 2019. This went on for a week.

Every time I thought I was turning a corner, I saw the envelope with the spoils of my adventure – four dinosaur teeth that looked like they had been dragged through a vat of silver.

“You should put them on a chain and wear them around your neck,” a friend said. Somehow, I don’t think the saber-toothed tiger look is in, even among rappers.

Instead, I hoped the Tooth Fairy (or a museum) might come and pay top dollar for something more than 50 years old. (No such luck.)

My face hasn’t frozen into an evil grin – yet – and my night of gorging potato chips is still in the future.

But I’m glad I did it – pain and all.

Now, I can sound like I’m much younger than I really am. When teenagers talk about having their wisdom teeth out, I can chime in: “I had mine out last year” and I’m sure they’ll think I’m practically a peer.

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