I had some emergency oral surgery a few days ago and now my mouth feels like a foreign place. I’ve been on alternating waves of painkillers, anti-inflammatory pills, antibiotics, and plain old mouthwash. Root extractions are a harrowing experience full of important lessons that everyone should learn. Let’s recap:
Proper Oral Care is Important
Brush your teeth a lot more than you think you need to! Keep toothpicks around, floss, mouthwash and whatever else. I didn’t really learn this lesson growing up and I’ve spent the past decade feeling my mouth turn into a hellscape of poor life choices represented in a blasted, jagged place reminiscent of the moon, only I put food there. When I finally tried to turn it all around (which has been a difficult and ongoing period of my life) I’ve either lacked the dental insurance to address my mouth nightmares, or plain old dentist-fear stopped me. Go to the dentist. They want to help you!
Just imagine the worst agony inside your face, and it never ends, and when you think you’ve found a way to cope with it, it becomes aware of your efforts and redoubles it’s attack on your sanity. Suddenly it’s like having a knife slipped into your gums, up behind your eyes, and slowly lobotomizing you with blinding pain. Then you get to pay for the fix, and you wind up broke and homeless with an insatiable addiction to painkillers, thinking on all your dreams that never came true because you didn’t brush your goddamn teeth.
Fear Gets You Nowhere
If the worst thing you have to worry about from the dentist is a filling, you’re admitting to being afraid of about 30 seconds of discomfort and a period of ongoing unwelcome oral intrusion. A topical anesthetic, a pinch from a needle, a few minutes of waiting, then some pressure, some noises, a few bad tastes and you’re done. Big. Fucking. Deal. Being afraid of the first bits of anything will crush every hope and dream you have until you’re drinking yourself to sleep over everything that could-have-been and sitting on every mistake you’ve ever made. I’m speaking from experience, because I’ve been a dweller on mistakes for most of my life and I can tell you exactly how they pan out. Maybe someday I’ll write more freely about the things I’ve done, but they’re not the sort of stories that really have a satisfactory ending or a moral you can pick up and keep.
I know about regret, though. I know about peer pressure, and following the crowd, and acting the fool, and the vacuous nature of popularity and acceptance and how doing the right thing isn’t always in-line with doing the good thing. And, when it comes to your moth, it should come before friends, family, popularity, love, hate, or pretty much anything else in the world. When your mouth is broken, your entire life feels like a place you can’t stand to be in. Every moment becomes preoccupied with that malign discomfort that never, ever goes away.
Smiling Changes Everything
If you don’t smile, you feel miserable a lot more than you should. If you, like me, don’t smile because you hate the way your mouth looks (because you have how it feels), you are abandoning one of the most powerful and important means of human communication. Making eye contact with someone, even for a moment, is a chance to make someone feel better. A quick and honest smile can change a day for the better. If you get used to never smiling, don’t expect to laugh. Don’t expect anyone to smile at you. Prepare yourself for a whole lot of isolation, self-doubt and general emotional malaise. I like smiling at people, but I hate my teeth. I used to smoke a lot when I was younger, and they got yellow. I drink a lot of coffee. I eat spinach. I keep my mouth shut and don’t flash my teeth in a smile and it makes people think I’m faking it. Sometimes I am, but usually it’s just embarrassment.