I pulled one of my own teeth in 1976. I’ve still got it around here somewhere. It was a broken tooth that had taken on a mind of its own and become a foul-smelling demon.
My wife knew about the problem. She insisted that I go see a dentist and have it taken care of properly. Instead, I waited until she went to work and then popped it out myself.
Don’t ever do this.
The removal part was easy. I was wide awake the previous year when a dentist — and by this I mean a real one — removed two impacted wisdom teeth while I was conscious and on my lunch hour.
Snap-crackle-pop X 2 — and then it was back to work at the freight dock, where I promptly passed out. Lucky for me, I had a great boss who drove me home.
This time was different. Having had it done, I figured I could do it myself without all the bother of insurance and appointments. Besides, I hate dentists. I hate anyone unfamiliar who gets into my personal space, but especially dentists.
Needles don’t scare me. Neither does drilling, scraping or cutting. Pain, while annoying, I can handle much easier than unfamiliar proximity. For some reason, dentists never seem to understand this.
Sometimes you have to let them know. I punched a dentist when I was 12. I don’t mean I pushed him away, or slapped at him, or pulled on his hand. I punched him. In the eyes.
He was really pissed. We were a military family, and the dentist was an officer, one I’m guessing not used to being socked by an enlisted man’s brat.
I’m not sure if it’s because I hit him, or because his assistant laughed when he stumbled back with a curse, but I was gone before he could grab me. Out of the room and into the parking lot with Mom yelling at me.
I forget exactly how I was collared, returned screaming to the chair and given a shot of something that dissolved my willpower and all of my bones. But the problem was solved.
Anyway, rather than let someone get into my face again, and because I was already familiar with the process, why shouldn’t I give it a try?
The tooth was badly infected and a little loose. I fussed about with an old leather punch (properly sterilized by running it under some water) and — plip — out it came, along with a lot of blood and a short scream.
I was proud of myself — for about four hours. Then real pain set in. That’s when I realized that self-dentistry lacked the proper credentials for prescribing pain medication — and poking an aspirin into a hole where a tooth used to be only made things worse.
Being a do-it-yourself guy requires something I lack — forethought. I’m more of a “let’s just get it over with” kind of guy. I’ll handle the fallout later.
In the case of the tooth — which I still can’t find in order to take a picture of it for this column — I ended up right where I didn’t want to be: in the chair of an oral surgeon as my wife blocked the door to make sure I stayed put until properly gassed.
My father recognized when I was young that I had a high tolerance for pain. He told my wife about it when she agreed to marry me.
He said a high pain tolerance was necessary for a kid who mindlessly battered his way through life. He suggested that she get some of it for herself. She must have.