holes in my certainty



The dental office called Friday afternoon, right as we'd sat down to watch the commercials at Catching Fire (not the previews, I wouldn't have answered during the previews).

There was a cancellation on Saturday, did I want that spot? I said yes.

I was anxious. I haven't had a tooth pulled since my wisdom teeth came out, ten years or so ago.

The appointment came. I brought music with me. I wore my most calming essential oils. I was still anxious and that was ok. I knew I would still be able to have the procedure done. I was ready.

At her consult, the orthodontist agreed I could use braces to move my bottom teeth back, but she'd rather take the baby tooth while they were in braces, because that leaves the bone softer. I started crying a little. I really thought it was that baby tooth that was causing me pain, every day. (It's gotten worse and worse, that pain.) I was really ready for the pain to be gone.

We agreed we could take the baby tooth now because I was so sure. But first, I had a molar that had older fillings that needed replacing, and we started on that tooth.

The moment my dentist started drilling on that molar, I was pretty sure that it was the cause of all my pain. Even numb, I could feel it. Pain. The sharp pain. (I was really numb.) She stopped and gave me more Novocaine. I could still feel it, but I was able to breath through the pain.

She got the filling off and saw a crack that went all the way down to the root.

It hadn't shown up in any x-ray. Not a shadow, nothing. It must have been the wrong angle to be seen. It didn't show up, but it brought the pain. A hidden cause no one could see, until we opened the tooth up.

The molar wasn't salvageable. It needed to be pulled. Not the baby tooth that I'd been so sure was causing me pain.

My dentist explained how every time I'd chewed, the crack had spread a little, leaving the nerve exposed. That cold hitting the nerve could also hurt it. Yeah. No wonder I haven't been able to chew on that side of my mouth for so long. No wonder I was in pain.

And so: I apologized to my baby tooth. I was wrong, it wasn't the source of my pain. My dentist pulled the molar, which was much, much more involved that pulling a baby tooth. We left the two baby teeth because that molar extraction was more than enough for one visit.

My jaw is still sore. The wound is still raw. But there's no sharp pain anymore. My mouth will heal.

This was a good lesson in uncertainty: I was absolutely sure my baby tooth was causing the pain, but it wasn't. We needed to see what the real cause was. (And we kind of found it merely by luck, because my dentist believed that the filling in that back molar needed to be replaced, despite it not looking like it was split.)

Being as certain as I am is usually a good thing. But sometimes, I am completely certain even when I am a hundred percent wrong. And that's something I don't usually work on, it isn't something I normally practice, uncertainty.

I found my new practice, I think. I'm not a hundred percent certain, though.

Just kidding. Definitely. One hundred percent certain about uncertainty as my new practice. Uncertainty: let's go!