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Seconds

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It’s been seventeen days since I got my surgery, but my jaw still feels tender to the touch. The surgeon told me at the very beginning that, since I’m already in my late twenties, the roots of my wisdom teeth had the chance to grow deeper into the bones of my mouth. This, he says, makes the surgery more invasive and more complicated than it should be. He showed me the x-ray, and the bottom wisdom teeth looked to me like ancient fossils in black and white, fossilized remains that time had consumed and buried in layers of rock.

The first time I had my wisdom teeth removed was in September. But after drilling for forty minutes, they were only able to get one and a half of my teeth out instead of all four. It turns out that my teeth were not only buried deep; they were also seated at an angle that made them difficult to extract without using special tools.

But even though they weren’t able to get everything out, recovering from it was awful. The pain was piercing and constant. It felt like I was getting stabbed in the mouth with a paring knife while simultaneously getting a noogie on my temple. And because of that, I couldn’t afford to skip a beat on pain relievers for the better part of two weeks. I had to take them on time, even if it was three in the morning. The worst part was knowing that I would have to go through the whole thing again.

So, two months later, I found myself back under the knife for round two. Although this time, it was in an actual operating room instead of the doctor’s office.

I had two and a half teeth to go. Things started to blur. I was asleep.

When I woke up in the recovery room, someone handed me a cup of apple juice and some chocolate pudding. I felt great. But I knew that surgery was the easy partโ€”I was unconscious the whole time! Now I had to deal with the pain that came after it.

I felt the same piercing pain as before, but now on both sides of my jaw. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so much pain in my life. I learned during my post-op visit that some of the bone around my teeth were also shaved off. The surgeon had mentioned it casually, but I found it a bit surprising. I didn’t know that they would have to deal with bone at all. I thought they only had to smash the teeth into bits. But it started to make sense considering how long it took for me to recover from it.

But, even though I was unfortunate enough to get my wisdom teeth removed a second time, I still feel incredibly lucky. I’m fortunate that I was born in the era of modern medicine, where doctors have access to anesthesia and antibiotics. I felt grateful when I imagined people from the 18th century who got their teeth pulled out using the tooth key. Not only was it painful, but it also led to crushed gums, broken teeth, and splintered jaws.

So now that it’s all over, I’m just glad I can start eating fried chicken again.

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