Have you ever wondered why those teeth way back there carry the name of wisdom teeth? Well I have. I came up with an answer that tickles my fancy.
I was walking dogs with a dear friend, 3 dogs between us. Canines and girlfriends were happy tromping along some of Edmonton’s trails. My two dogs shown in the picture. Our conversation went this way and that as is so lovely between friends. Somehow we got onto the topic of wisdom teeth.
I attend with some regularity to my dentist: started seeing him when I was 17 years old. He lives 3 doors down as I coincidentally moved into his neighborhood over 10 years ago. He just cannot shake me apparently. I have always enjoyed our conversations. Never found any reason to go elsewhere. I am seriously skeptical (understatement) towards both the Medical and Dental professions -and any and all systems?- so it is nothing he should take personally. Many years ago, I am guessing twelve, it was recommended that I have my wisdom teeth extracted. I have only two of the usual four. Xray evidence shows the other two were never present. I have always prided myself in that I am evolutionarily advanced – ha ha. There appears no obvious function for the wisdom teeth so why bother having them, right? The two in place were impacted. The teeth pointed sideways and were up against their neighboring teeth. The concern was that they may erode the adjacent teeth (this is bad) OR they could develop an abscess (infection with no connection to the surface – dreadful) OR they could affect the alignment of all of the teeth – OK cannot really remember the details here. It was determined that mine would be very difficult to remove. I am older so the teeth are more embedded in the bone – etc. etc. He opted not to consider doing this himself but referred me to a specialist. Well I am always curious to learn more so off I went.
The specialist was a friendly sort. He approached the appointment as if having the surgery was a given. For me, I was curious. Let me learn about this and then make a decision. He appeared the expert as he rattled off so many facts and figures about the percentage risk of each of the numerous possible complications. Nice. Good to know your figures, for sure. I listened attentively. I was trying to be objective but I would be lying if I did not admit I was leaning away from having the surgery. Sounds risky and I had no symptoms. What would I gain to have the teeth removed? He had gone on and on about all of the risks of the surgery. My big question: “Well, what are the risks if I do not have the surgery?” Full stop. The answer was not nearly as well put together. Stumbling with words. Grasping at little anecdotes. Not a fact or figure was found. My favorite little vignette was the lady who was over 100 years old and developed an abscess of her wisdom tooth. This required surgery which was a pretty big deal for her. Hmmmm...The drama. I was left wondering about its relevance to my situation. I felt quite encouraged that the lady lived for 100 years without a wisdom tooth problem. What are the chances of me living over 100 and developing an abscess of the wisdom tooth? It sounded kind of comical to me. Of course, he could not answer that. BUT it could happen…I forget any of the other details.
I was left with the idea that the Dental profession did not know the Natural History of impacted wisdom teeth. My scientific mind was displeased by this. I teasingly encouraged both my own Dentist and this specialist to do the research. Would this not be a very common condition? The public would be well-served with this knowledge. What is the Natural History of impacted wisdom teeth in today’s age? I am loving the title of this fictitious study. That was then. It is very possible that it has now been published for all I know. Today, I do not really care that much if that research ever gets done. Maybe there is an easier way…(trust your instincts … heresy).
Medical School taught many things. A large proportion seemed awfully esoteric. But I was impressed with the importance of Natural History (meaning what happens when a disease is left alone with no treatment). There are many examples that when someone stopped to study the Natural History of a condition, it was determined that the treatment was worse than the disease. Some types of Prostate Cancer are pretty slow growing and can be the kind of condition that a man dies with but not from. Having the prostate removed could leave patients with all kinds of unwelcome effects relative to doing nothing. Removing tonsils is another example where once they were routinely extracted with little provocation. Over time it was determined that the majority of indications for tonsillectomy are no longer recognized. It is a rare person who ever has their tonsils extracted in today’s age relative to decades ago.
Discussion with my friend began because her son was booked to have his wisdom teeth removed. Her reaction to my story prompted me to write it out. Our conversation led to how powerful fear is. Whenever we are faced with a health-related decision we wonder, “Am I in control here?” I could not see myself ever having any issues related to my wisdom teeth. Not that two Dentists did not try to sell me on the idea. I chose not to buy it. My life is an experiment of sorts. As is every single one of our lives. I am willing to embrace uncertainty. My short Medical career emphasized how much less certainty there is than we might like to believe within Medical Science. (Sorry, I do not mean to frighten you. But…) I take full responsibility for my decisions. Even had there been Natural History research done, it would not really tell me my future experience. The past is the past. That study group is that group. There are so many variables individual to individual, I cannot really assume any research cohort holds 100% relevance for my individual experience. It is a problem long known in the Scientific Community. Medical Science considers what is best for the population in most of its decisions. This does not necessarily serve every individual. It will serve some.
When the biggest reason for a decision is playing into fear, I would not choose that decision. Intuition and/or heart-based decision making would trump any and all fear-based decisions. So my life can stand as my best version example of this trusting of my Self. I believe that we all are in the best positions to make decisions for ourselves. When we hand over the reigns to someone else deemed more knowledgeable, we are not stepping into our power but giving it away. Not that we cannot take in the information from deemed specialists. When we have strong inner intuitive forces giving us guidance, it goes against us to ignore those. There is the counter argument that I opted out of surgery because I was afraid. Who really knows? This is my story. I am sticking with it. So when I heard myself describing this important shift in my decision making rules to my friend, it answered my ‘tongue in cheek’ question of what wisdom teeth can teach us. Did that make any sense? I have come to embrace my long-winded storytelling style. Fiction or non-fiction? That is for you to choose…
Disclaimer: I am a Storyteller. This story is not intended to be used as Medical or Dental advice related to your own personal care. Please do not let my credentials lead you astray. You read this at your own risk. Tee hee…
Here is a little video clip talking about Fear that I like called “No Fear in the Now” by Sadhguru: (very short 1:37)
Love his words: It amounts to “socially accepted levels of insanity…Suffering something that does not exist.”… “If you are rooted in reality, there would be no fear”.
Approaching 50 years in “the game” and I have come to believe to my core in the importance of experiential learning.
I often say, “Let the moment teach me”. I am still developing my ability to be present in the moment. Improved way to live in my experience…
P.S. Looked for a song to go with this story. First time that I had been unable to come up with something. So I searched You Tube and typed in wisdom. I saw that wisdom teeth funny was a choice. Page upon page of videos were there that I assume to be a parent enjoying the suffering of their teenaged or young adult who had just had their wisdom teeth out. Mmmmm…. Held no interest to me. My inquiring mind was wondering how many of those procedures were truly required? No way to ever know…
So I broke down and watched one that was titled “Wisdom Tooth Girl Finally Meets Ellen”. Hey, where there is Ellen, there is fun! BUT….it was a girl under the influence of narcotics used in the surgery thinking one of the staff was Ellen Degeneres (who does look a little like Ellen). So maybe the narcotic antics was what all those other videos were about. Don’t care to find out.
Eureka!! I guess I was looking for Reel Wisdom (7 minutes)
It is a montage of clips of wisdom from an array of movies that we love.
Wrote Spring 2013