Saturday, October 21, 2006

Automatically Getting Your Wisdom Teeth Removed

Guess what? I have all four of my wisdom teeth. Yeah that's right dentists. All there. All healthy. All helping me chew those spicy tuna rolls. What are you going to do about it?

See I know when I go to the dentist and they see those wisdom teeth back there the cash register noises start going off in their heads. They start thinking about that new backyard pool they're going to put it. That new corian kitchen counter. How crestfallen they always are when I tell them no sale.

Dentist: "You know Zap," (spoken in a fatherly, caring medical voice) "You really should get those wisdom teeth out."

Me: "Really?" (pause) "Why?"

Many people don't even make it to the why. They just give in right there and schedule the first of the appointments. Ask ten different dentists why, you get ten different answers. This is common:

Dentist: "Well, later on... they can become quite problematic."

Me: "Oh no.... what kinds of problems?"

Dentist: "Wisdom teeth grow for a long time. And when there's crowding in the mouth and the tooth runs out of jawbone space...."

Me: "Yeah...."

Dentist: "They can become *impacted*"

Me: "Oh God, no. What does that mean?"

Dentist: "It means it'll grow in at a funny angle."

Me: "And..... and what are the consequences of that?"

Dentist: "Um.... well they can become more prone to infection."

Me: "Infection? That's awful!"

Dentist: "Not to mention mild gum pain."

Me: "Oh Jesus. Not mild gum pain!"

Dentist: "And, possibly.... .... .... swelling."

Me: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

So yeah. This is not a convincing case to have four teeth removed. Let me ask a reasonable question. Where else in the entirety of medicine do we have body parts removed because of the hypothetical possibility that they may one day cause one of a few minor, perfectly treatable problems? If a buddy showed up with an eye patch and said "Yep, I had the eyeball removed. Can't be too careful about pink-eye." wouldn't that just be a wee bit stupid.

Ah, but the eyeball is useful. Not wisdom teeth. Okay, so what about the appendix? The appendix has no use. Do we get our appendix removed in anticipation of appendicitis? No.

The only things I can think of that we get preemptively removed before they cause trouble are moles and other skin blemishes. But a) those are unsightly, and b) the risk is cancer. If you bring cancer into the picture, then yeah, now I'll play ball.

If the wisdom tooth does cause trouble later on, then sure! Remove it! Oh what, they get more difficult to remove as they grow? I don't care. Still the same copay for me. Still the same anaesthetic. It's your problem, dentist.

And why do we play down the actual usefulness of a wisdom tooth? If you lose a tooth in early adulthood, any teeth that are still growing can move into the gap. Then you're going to be happy you had a few spares in the back.

I guess I just can't understand how people can be so acquiescent about forfeiting body parts just because one day they might get infected. "Might want to remove that middle toe... what if it steps on a rusty nail?" No thank you Dr. Hackemoff!

Finally, circumcision. Hmm. I guess logically I have to be against it. Yeah sure, what the hell, I'm against it. Not much I can do about it now though.

1 comment:

Dr. Ian Clark said...

One of the worst mistakes I ever made was having my wisdom teeth removed. Six weeks after the procedure, the damn things became infected! I had to go diving through the dumpster, find the little bastards, have them put back in, and then medicated. The really bad part is that I could only find three of the teeth! The forth is just a damn pebble, so now I look like quite the fool when I smile.