The Wisdom of Teeth

Ian at the Tate. Photo Credit: Jonah

On Monday, Ian sat in a reclining chair in the Oral Surgeon’s office and stared at a five foot x-ray of his teeth. Dr. Song, the jolliest oral surgeon in three counties, pointed to Ian’s wisdom teeth under the gum line, which in their infinite wisdom, were pointing sideways, instead of up and down like any self respecting tooth should do.

“Those teeth have to come out now. Like today. Like right now. Like I would do it this minute if I could,” said the jolly doctor.

So, when we got a call on Tuesday afternoon from the office saying that Dr. Song had a sudden opening in his schedule at 11:30 the next day, Steve and I went into emergency mode. We cleared work schedules. A teenage computer programming class at the community college came to abrupt end. We filled out massive amounts of insurance paperwork.

And then the worry kicked in. How was Ian going to handle sharp needles and pain? Was he going to sit in the chair and be appropriate? Or would the Flight or Fight instinct kick in? And then who knows what could happen. He processes fear and pain differently than other kids, so there was a huge random factor surrounding this operation.

That morning, I distracted myself with a trip to the supermarket for supplies – pudding, jello, a chicken to make some homemade broth. We sent Ian to his computer class for an hour. And then we drove the old Subaru to the doctor’s office.

Ian panicked for a moment when he got a look at the IV needle, but he stayed still, so the doctor got it in his arm. And then Ian’s lights went out. His eyes fluttered down.

Watching your kid go under anesthesia for a routine operation, like wisdom teeth or tonsils, is so unexpectingly upsetting. We haven’t had to do it often, thank God. Watching your kid slowly lose consciousness makes one think of death. It’s a blow to the stomach.

I said, “Oh, I’m going to cry.”

“Don’t do that! I’m a social crier. I’ll cry, too, and won’t be able to do the operation!” said Dr. Song. And the staff kicked us out of the room.

In about 30 minutes, they came to the waiting room and told us it was done. Steve and I dropped our books and ran in. Ian was dazed and stuffed with cotton.

The nurse started giving us directions for caring for him for the next few days. She must give this drill about ten times a day, so she droned through the rules.

“No straws. No toothbrushes. Put gauze on the cut for 24 hours. Don’t eat crunchy or chunky foods for a few days. Just smooth stuff like Jello and pancakes and scrambled eggs —

Ian piped in “and hot dogs and sauerkraut….”

“No you can’t do that!”

“… and sushi and sashimi… “

“Listen, I have to give the rest of the directions!”

“…and pizza and burgers…”

I couldn’t stop laughing. Steve gave me a dirty look, because the nurse was giving us some very important about medications and dosages, but I couldn’t stop listening to my boy. Then on the way home, he was asking trippy questions, like “Mom, why do you have three eyes?” “Are operations time machines? How come it’s 12:30 now?” “What’s that rubber thing in my mouth?” [It was his bottom lip.]

And we’re so very grateful that our boy not only made it through an operation smoothly and is free from sideways wisdom teeth, but that he’s making me laugh and beam with pride every day.

5 thoughts on “The Wisdom of Teeth

      1. I want the hat.

        I didn’t get my wisdom teeth out until I was 28 because they never came in. The oral surgeon said ‘i bet you get a lot of ear infections, but you won’t anymore.’ I used to get an ear infection every spring and fall and I know with babies scream m. I hadn’t had any until I tried swimming lessons recently. I thought it would be better for my joints. Two weeks ear infection, had to quit. Tried again. Two weeks, ear infection,had to quit. Tried again. Two weeks, ear infection,had to quit, gave up.

        Getting my wisdom teeth out also got rid of my migraines. I’ve had one (as in had to go to emergency room)since. Before getting them out it was three or four times a year. So, despite Ian’s temporary discomfort, you did the right thing.

        And who knew? No one ever suggested that would help with the ear infections or migraines until I had the consult with the oral surgeon. I had prescriptions, I did elimination diets, nothing worked. But getting my wisdom teeth out truly improved my quality of life. I sent the oral surgeon a gift basket for ten years.


  1. We had to do this a few years back for C (even though she’s the same age as Ian) because she had a 12-year molar lying sideways under the gum and not coming out, so they took that one and the four wisdom teeth out at the same time. She also had general anesthesia.

    Worst spring break ever–but it saves time later.


  2. I still have my wisdom teeth. It’s how come I know so much. My dentist just went ahead and pulled out some other teeth when I was twelve or so saying that would leave room for wisdom teeth.


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