Tooth Trouble

This isn’t EXACTLY fitness-related, but I had my wisdom tooth taken out yesterday. And though I thought I’d never say this in a million years, I am doing just fine thanks to the magic of modern medicine.


Especially since living in China, where the pharmacies resemble greenhouses and nurseries, I’ve been a skeptic of medicine. I mean, if you’re feeling good and treating your body with respect, why go to a doctor? Why take a sleeping pill to sleep instead of turning out the TV and every light and training yourself to sleep through the night? Why take a Tylenol for every headache, when suffering through just one or two will make you think about choices you can make to not get one in the first place? Why not let your awesomely-made body to do its thing, instead of confusing it and making it sick by popping a pill every time you feel the slightest inclination?


That being said, I got a nasty infection around my wisdom tooth two summers ago.

I could illustrate textbooks if I really wanted to.

It’s called Perocoronitis and it’s when your wisdom tooth starts to poke through and a skin flap is formed that traps food, infects, swells, and hurts like heck.


Two summers ago, I’d just gotten back from China, and I didn’t have insurance. My face swelled to twice its size and I began applying for Medicaid with my new circus-freak face. I was unemployed, but I didn’t qualify. After desperately searching for a dentist that wouldn’t require my first-born as a down payment, I settled on University of Pittsburgh’s Dental School, where they’d take it out for $100.


The resident was Chinese and we began having a pleasant, albeit simple, conversation. His boss walked in, white, fat, and grumpy and asked me to stop mocking his student. I was flabbergasted. He said a number of other mean things directed at me, but in the end, the student gave me some numbing medicine and began poking around in my infected mouth.


I was awake for the prods, the snips, even the part when they sawed through the tooth in my gums because they weren’t able to get it out. I asked when it was over if I could keep my tooth, and I was told no – it wasn’t the policy. I’d had enough by that point.


“I…just…please…it’s MY tooth! PLEASE!”


In the end, the Chinese student slipped it to me in a paper towel and said I could leave. My boyfriend at the time was waiting for me by the door, the nurses telling him he shouldn’t be back here.


Fast forward to yesterday morning.

This was my face before I knew what it was like to have an insured tooth removed.


Yet another bout of perocoronitis. The dentist told me to have it removed immediately, so I did. My amazing awesome best mother in the world came down to help me. We drove to the oral surgeon’s office, where I was brought to a small private room, got all my questions answered, chatted with the good-humored and healthy surgeon, and woke up with a little envelope containing my whole tooth in my hand. That was it. No resentment, no pain. Easy Peasy. My face didn’t even swell that much.

slightly inconvenient to miss work, but relatively pain-free

This insured-tooth/uninsured-tooth experience just reinforced what I already knew: emergency healthcare can mean you’re back on your feet and well-drugged after a few hours of moderate discomfort, or out of commission for weeks after being frightened and humiliated. Who wants universal healthcare for all Americans? This girl.

teeth for all americans!

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