Pulling Teeth


Needle jabs
And again
And again
A chill spreads
Pins and needles
Before wheeeeee
And pop
And heave
And ho!
And stitch
And pull
And tie
And knot
And swill
And cottonwool
And pills
And bill
Then tingle
And dribble
And blood
In a trickle
Then chemist
Then bus
Then home
To a nice fuss

It is done. After 25 years of dodging the dentist – and with a mighty and reverberating crack – my wisdom tooth is no more.

A cropped top and two roots lay on the slab in a forlorn trio. Pain is due in less than an hour, but I’m nearly home for tea – and hopefully some sympathy.

Doh! Ow! Oh?


Like many men of my age, my general attitude to a health problem is ‘best ignore it’. Of course I periodically moan, but then refuse to get anything seen to and hope it will go away – nearly cost me dear that 20 years ago.

And it is going to cost me again, as I absorb the X-rays of my thoroughly impacted wisdom tooth. Having ignored it, complained about it and recently attacked it with a camping spoon, it has now got the better of me – two teeth to come out, root canal work on a third to hopefully save it and up to £2000 without passing Go.

I asked the dentist whether he could just pull them out and do me a George Washington wooden set. He felt not.

And what I’ve felt subsequently is interesting too… because now I’ve seen an X-ray, my subjective feeling of pain has changed. Now my brain has a picture of the problem, I feel it much more – and in a completely different place.

It used to really only hurt at 3am at night, when it often woke me up. I thought it was a nightly push from the wisdom tooth to get out. Turns out it’s just the nightly drop in cortisol of a healthy circadian rhythm – cortisol falls, the immune system kicks in and the pain kicks off. It still hurts at 3am but I realise it’s not one pushing, it’s another one throbbing.

What was – in my mind – the surging pressure of a wisdom tooth, with an battling desire to burst through, is now correctly identified as just the morbid cry of its near mortally wounded neighbour. Broken, damaged perhaps beyond repair – less George Washington more General Custer.

Three reflections arise. One, doh! Why didn’t I go get this fixed sooner. Two, ow! Pain. Three, oh? So that’s the explanation – and mind and body seamlessly recombine with a different mental picture and a different felt reality; no periodic ‘pressure’ just steady dull pain. Our senses can deceive us. The mind makes up its own mind.