The Wisdom in a Tooth

By  | July 9, 2010 | 1 Comment | Filed under: uncategorized

Evolution has apparently sidestepped me, as I have all four of my wisdom teeth. Pains that they were; they now rest benignly in the back of my mouth, serving no real purpose other than to remind me once in awhile, when brushing, that I have good gag reflex. I am regularly shocked to hear that there are those that have never developed these curses to humanity. What did they do to avoid the experience? I feel like such a dinosaur.

Anthropologists say that our ancestors used them for grinding, as their diets consisted of coarse and rough food like leaves, roots, nuts and meats, which required good gnawing ability. The only grinding mine do is at night when I am fast asleep after a rather stressful day. I guess it’s safe to say that our modern desires for softer foods, along with our civilized use of utensils to lessen the labour of eating, has left us pondering the purpose of those mysterious third molars.

The fact that one has wisdom teeth has really nothing to do with their level of wisdom, but everything to do with the problems they can develop, as the modern jaw is much smaller than those of ancient man; problems such as teeth that are impacted, blocked or partially erupted. These annoying lumps can also become excessive food collectors making them prime candidates for infection. Can you feel the pain? Perhaps the only wisdom evolved from these teeth is the truth hidden in the cautionary phrase of “use them or lose them”.

Biologists now classify these useless organs as vestigial, which I know as meaning something that has no particular function due to evolution. They say the best time for removal of these teeth are when they have roots about 2/3rds formed, which generally falls between the ages of 15 and 18. Can you feel the pain?

The removal of these teeth is a painless event; however the days which follow can invoke gut wrenching sympathy from all but the toothless. All three of my children had them removed when they were about 20yrs of age. I guess … better late than never. Today this process seems more a rite of passage … the last vestigial signs of teenager-ism to be extracted along with the tooth.

My oldest had two of his bottom wisdoms removed…they left his two top ones…I don’t know why. In a giggling, silly two hours span after surgery, he was only a tiny bit worse for wear. I, like any mother, fought the constricting lump of emotion rising in my throat as I watched him walk away from the car that day, with his cotton-stuffed cheeks, sure to reveal the nature of his absence to all his class mates; brave and stubborn soul, that one.

My second son was happy and relaxed after his nerve-wracking ordeal with anticipation. Waiting for the inevitable was always his worst enemy, but when he awoke from the surgery, he was wide-eyed with amazement to the fact that he barely closed his eyes and then, they were gone. Typically a quiet boy he looked at me with his childish eyes under the influence, and whispered “Are they gone?” The joy on his face was unmistakable, and he chatted for an hour after, until the silent pain crept into his day. I was instructed that frozen bags of peas were the best trick, and to this very day the smell of peas turns his stomach.

My dear daughter was so different. She had such a fragile, tiny face and I was certainly worried. Her dread however, came from her classmates force-feeding their horror stories. She was instructed of all the remote and potential disasters that could occur during the procedure, one being the damage of a particular nerve leaving one side of the face paralyzed. This pretty young thing was terrified that she would never find a boyfriend after surgery, and she was a complete nervous wreck by the time the anesthetic put her under. My daughter woke up from her deep sleep with me holding her hand. The tears flowed down her swelling, stuffed cheeks and as I helped her to her feet she whispered into my ear…

“Look at me Mom,” she ordered in a drunken mumble… “Do I look like Jean Chrétien?”

What made it worse was the fact that afterward the swelling was phenomenal, and I did catch a glimpse of a stranger in my child’s face. Luckily the swelling went away and so did Jean. Wisdom teeth …cursed things! I certainly felt their pain. Hopefully I will never have to feel mine, as my lumps have been behaving.




One Response to The Wisdom in a Tooth

  1. Debbie Vitez July 10, 2010 at 12:30 am

    Great story Mags, thanx for sharing.. The rite of passage, having those dam wisdom teeth pulled

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