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.