I’m also one of those guys who’s going to be 40 this year, and even I have thought now is probably a good time to start doing some maintenance.
In my defense, I think I come by my stubbornness honestly, which is to say it’s hereditary, which is to say it’s not my fault.
My father, who, until a point, was also one of these guys, has acquired some renown for what he was willing to do to avoid, or otherwise shrug off, the need for a doctor. There’s a famous story in our family about a time one of my father’s molars was bothering him to such an extent he removed it himself with nothing but a pair of pliers and masculinity.
That’s 100 percent true, folks. I saw the tooth, roots and all. It looked like something you’d see in a Tex Avery cartoon.
So, that’s the stock from which I come. While my father’s do-it-yourself attitude had served him well in some areas—he’s a self-taught master repairman of just about anything—I’m not sure it was the best idea in terms of his body and health.
And yet that was my attitude, too, until a couple weeks ago.
Shortly after Thanksgiving 2013, I started feeling, let’s call it a sensation, in my gums on the lower left side. I believe I was sitting in the wonderful new Alamo Drafthouse theater in Yonkers when I first noticed it. It progressed from there to bite pain on that side, followed by periods of burny pain that sometimes required a couple of Advil before I could proceed with my day at your newspaper.
As we all do these days, especially those of us who dismiss going to the doctor or, in this case—shudder—the dentist, out of hand, I spent a lot of time on the Internet trying to diagnose my problem.
Pooling the full diagnostic powers of WebMD and Editor-in-Chief Christian Falcone together with my own, I determined I had a gum infection and, in a separate but perhaps related issue, that my lower left wisdom tooth had shifted, crowding and irritating my other teeth.
Yes, I still have all my wisdom teeth. What did I do when I was about 19 or 20 and they were coming in to enormous, throbbing pain that lasted weeks, you ask?
I sucked it up and got on with the business of renting movies to people.
Needless to say, my wife told me to see a dentist the moment I made the mistake of telling her what was going on. No, I thought, I want to beat this myself. I’ve read about the home remedies and treatments for a gum infection. I’ll tackle it myself and not only avoid the dentist, but I’ll know I won. I won and the infection lost. Then, and only then, if I decide to have the wisdom tooth extracted, it’ll be on my terms, not those of some lousy gum infection, which I knew didn’t stand a chance against warm salt water and my will.
This is how men think, ladies. Isn’t it great?
In my defense, the salt water and diligence with which I used it did hold whatever was wrong at bay, to some extent. The burning flare-ups of pain got fewer and farther between, but they still happened and, after the first McDonald’s chocolate shake I’ve had in a couple years made me see stars, I jacked it in and decided to seek the care of a professional.
Remember, I’m going to be 40 this year. I remember it because I think of little else these days. Forty without a doctor or a dentist to my name.
At that rate, what on Earth will 60 look like, assuming I get there?
If you’re a guy like me, here’s what I want you to take away from this if you take anything from it because it’s something I wasn’t expecting. Going to the dentist, and I believe I found a good one, that first time—I’ve been twice, so far—was instant peace of mind and taught me I’m not alone in this problem, nor will I be for any future problem.
As soon as I filled my prescription for antibiotics and pain reliever, I felt like, hey, these pharmacy guys are here to help me win this fight, too. As soon as I took my first doses, I realized what a complete fool I’d been to wait and try to tackle the problem myself.
Especially since, hey, I was right; it was a gum infection and a case of reversible pulpitis in my lower left molar, third from the back.
Finding out you’re right is never a bad thing.
As I sit here now, finishing up our weekly visit, I do so with no pain and a second course of antibiotics making sure the infection stays dead. I’m going back to the dentist next week for other, long overdue maintenance and repair work-—nothing major, thankfully—and, I have to say, I’m more looking forward to it than not.
If I’m going to be here at 60 and beyond, I don’t want those years to be full of trips to WebMD, or whatever the holographic implant equivalent will be at that time, and fretting, even if it means I never get to do something as spectacularly awesome as extract my own molar with a pair of pliers and my own willingness to get the job done.
Still need to get to a doctor for a check-up.
Maybe I’ll wait until I’m actually 40 for that.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and
follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas