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Dental Chair Wisdom

I just had the most painful molar extraction of my life and I still have bleeding gums and a mouth sore to show for it. Ten years ago my orthodontist discovered that I had four impacted wisdom teeth, the kind that grew sideways. She advised me to have them removed before they ruined the teeth beside them. The problem was my mother was against tooth extraction. She had this gnawing fear of losing a daughter there on the dental chair. What a sad way to exit this life! And so we postponed the dreaded tooth surgeries until after I grew out of my braces.

It took me a total of eight years to have these four teeth taken out. Two years ago I finally had the last of those misdirected wisdom teeth pulled out. Although it was not a exactly a happy experience, I was back to my cheery self right after my dentist closed off the wound with surgical thread. I’m proud to say that I’m not squeamish when it comes to needles and surgical equipment. My frequent trips to the dermatologist have prepared me for that. (Oh, the things we endure in the name of beauty!) Unfortunately, my orthodontist’s prediction came true—the tooth had already grated the molar beside it, creating a deep, nasty hole. I lived with that condition until a trip to the ortho early this year jolted me out of my complacency.

The orthodontist decided it was time to pull out the molar because it had become useless. Parting with unwanted wisdom teeth was not a problem, but now my precious molar? Would food taste as good without it? Wouldn’t my face sag if we pulled this one out? I consulted my mother and it was decided that I go back to my other dentist for a second opinion. This dentist had good news. He could restore the molar, he said. This started a process that had me going to the dental office every two weeks for treatment and root canal.


I’m no masochist, but I looked forward to my trips to the dentist. The root canal didn’t hurt at all, thanks to my dentist’s gentle hands, and I always went home feeling that I did something good for myself–like getting a pedicure or going to a spa. Then, two weeks ago, I munched on something hard, and heard the tooth snap. But I had a trip to the beach to attend to, so I just shrugged it off till my scheduled appointment.

Back on the dental chair, I was happily planning my outfit for this race I was joining the next day, when my dentist gave me the grim news. He said he had no other recourse but to pull my molar out because it had become brittle. “If I don’t remove it now, it’s going to bother you later,” Dr. Joseph Lim warned. I was tempted to postpone it for a couple of days, but the Ortigas traffic came to mind and I decided that braving the surgery was more tolerable than enduring yet another afternoon in Manila’s horrendous traffic.

I tried to stay calm, except that I wasn’t mentally prepared for this. My palms started sweating when I remembered how long those anesthetic needles were. I know coffee is supposed to have a pain-killing effect, but the café mocha I downed at lunch didn’t help at all. What it did was increase my heart rate, sending me into panic mode. I cringed in pain every time the dentist jabbed my gums with anesthesia. But that was just the start of the ordeal. The molars, I learned, are the sturdiest facial bones we have. On top of that, this particular molar had lost its crown and had cracked in 5 different places, leaving my dentist no choice but to excavate from the root! It took 4 additional jabs of anesthesia to quiet the pain caused by the pressure of the dentist’s shiny forceps and excavator.

I squirmed and hollered in my seat, begging him to stop poking my irritated gums with his massive weapons of tooth destruction. It was the first time I saw my even-tempered dentist lose patience. “Doctora, bring in the army and navy,” the dentist commanded his assistant. What? Now we need a whole battalion to get thing off? The army and navy, he explained, are just two of the weird names those in the dental profession had tagged their power tools. Some sense of humor, huh? Remind me never to marry a dentist!

When the whole tooth was completely dismantled, the dentist showed me what the 5 truncated pieces looked like. Trust me, it was not a pretty sight. Wincing in pain, I gathered what was left of my dignity, got up from the dental chair and ambled to the front desk to pay the P1,500 fine, I mean, fee. I noticed that the waiting room was practically empty. I wonder how many patients ran out of the door after hearing my histrionics. It’s a good thing I had a late schedule or I could have scared the wits out of more people. Definitely bad business for my dentist!

Now I carry a painful and expensive lesson from that ordeal. I learned never, ever to procrastinate when it comes to my health. I could have prevented losing that molar had I listened to my orthodontist ten years ago. But no, I had to wait until nature had taken its course and so as natural as the laws of science, I had to reap the consequences.

From now on, I am going to take better care of my body. As trite as it sounds, an ounce of prevention is indeed better than a pound of cure, and I learned that first-hand right there on that dental chair. Which reminds me, I have to get that treadmill that I’ve been eyeing. A treadmill, I think, is a lot cheaper than heart surgery, which I am definitely not going to have!

–Written Nov. 13, 2004

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  1. now that is the funniest article i ever read on tooth extraction…kinda brings out the sado-masochist in me…

  2. Jen, thanks for making me laugh. I really neeeded it. I have been down in the dumps this week. Like you in December 04 I’m experiencing some rollercoaster emotions….I suppose brought about by the realization that I haven’t achieved much before I reach 30. Keep on writing…you have the knack for it 🙂
    PS I don’t have an SLR dig to give you though!! hehehe! I own an SLR, but it’s only for a 35mm film. It takes good pictures though!

  3. I just had my impacted wisdom tooth extracted. I can soooo relate

  4. i just had an infected gumline behind my tooth becasue i did something similar, i waited years to get a crown and it got infected.

    While I was in the dentist chair after he shoot me up with some good ole novacaine, my hands and feet started to go numb i was like wtf is happening, then my stomach went numb, it fellt like i had little bugs running around inside of me, i became very worried because the assistant said she never saw this before, i realized it was the serotnin release from my (brain ? liver?).

    Anyhow make a long story short, i never thought a grown man can cry like a little baby, yes that was me, i’ve never in my life felt so much pain at once, it was like being hit by a freight train in the face. Tomorrow I go back to haev him drain out the puss, instead this time im getting the gas which im ver appreciatve of because i just couldn’t take the pain, i almost literally broke the arm of the dentists chair, he told me you need gas my friend, to which i agreed. So, yeah we feel your pain, my advice. If you get a root canal make SURE you get the crown with it, otherwise you may get it infected years later and wind up in surgery like me paying $2,500.

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