For those of you poised at the edge of your seats to hear the latest installment of What's Wrong With Me, here's what's going on with my back molar.
I got a late appointment at the dentist today. I like my dentist. He's fun, at least as fun as a dentist can be. He pipes the local oldies station all through his office and sings along. He's also a pilot and a World War II buff, so every room is filled with model airplanes and aviation artwork -- never a dull moment sitting there, unlike my doctor's exam room where all I have to look at are Viagra posters and scoldy notices about insurance billing.
They've gotten my history of this problem and taken my X-ray, and I'm sitting there in the chair listening to "Dancing Queen" while examining a framed print of a fighter plane when the dentist comes back in. He is not singing "Dancing Queen."
"You have got a big problem," he tells me somberly.
He shows me the film. There's an ominous dark splotch underneath the root of my tooth. It's an abscess...a big, ugly one. But the molar itself looks fine.
"Have you had any kind of recent head injury?" the dentist asks.
"No..." I think back to my recent parking-lot tumble. "Well, I fell on the ice around Christmastime. But I didn't fall on my head."
"Hmmm. The thing is, if you hit at a certain velocity, with your bite in a certain alignment, you could have significantly damaged something down there, without it showing up right away on an X-ray."
Long story short: No matter how healthy it looks on X-ray now, the tooth is going to die. The dentist told me I could choose a root canal, and all the hassle and cost that that entails, or have the thing extracted. He said, "If I were you, I'd just get it out of there." I said, "That sounds like a plan to me."
So...I am taking massive quantities of antibiotics, and tomorrow morning I have to call an oral surgeon.
No one on either side of my working-class extended family has ever been too fastidious about dental health; they all lived under the assumption, I guess, that they'd have dentures by age 30 anyway, so why bother. I've always rebelled against that. I always told myself that, by golly, I'm checking out with the full set of teeth God gave me.