I’m going to challenge myself tonight. I’m going to attempt eating a pork chop. About two weeks ago a tooth started to ache. Toothaches come and go, but this one stayed. In about a half an hour, while I’m typing, my alarm should go off to take my antibiotics. I’ve never had to take antibiotics for a toothache, but then, I’ve never had a tooth ache this much. It is amazing how one little nerve with a bad message can overwhelm the billions of other nerves that say everything else is fine. The same might be said of the situation that may have kicked off the episode.
Usually, I try to include at least one photo or graphic in my posts. I suspect you’ll pardon my departure from the practice in this instance. There isn’t much to see. The tooth looks normal at a glance, but about ten years ago a previous dentist showed me a microscopic photo of a hairline crack in one of my molars. Some bit of popcorn or a nut provided the opportunity for me to crack a tooth. Since then, it’s been sensitive but manageable. That’s what happens as the decades accumulate, we learn ways to accommodate our imperfections.
The tooth would hurt, but only occasionally. There was actually a benefit. The tooth became a stress indicator. Under normal daily stress, there was very little if any pain because the crack was so small. When the stress built, I’d clench my teeth, which possibly pressed on the nerve, and my tooth would ache. Ironically, when I was most relaxed, my jaw would relax, and it seemed to allow the tooth to open a minute amount sufficient to let hot or cold food and drink to trigger the ache. I can’t prove that was the cause, but the correlation seemed reliable.
So, when the ache arrived again I decided to let it slide and abate as usual. This time wasn’t usual. A few days into the episode, I started applying folk remedies, like homemade clove tinctures. That almost worked. By then, however, it was the weekend and too late to check for an appointment. So, I ramped up the at home medication with over the counter solutions like clove oil and then OraGel. They started to make a difference, but the pain spread. By a week into the event the toothache was joined by an ear ache and a head ache. My head felt tight. The last time my head felt that tight it affected my eyesight until a massage therapist massaged away the pain. My muscles were so tight that they restricted the blood flow to my eyes. A twenty minute session was enough to show me the benefit. I was familiar with the possible cause and effect, but this was worse.
Another end of the week approached and it seemed that the symptoms would diminish. For a day or two, it did. In a sudden reversal, the pain grew until I had to work in 45 minute sprints, then stand until getting vertical rearranged the way my blood flowed. That night felt like a another breakthrough, though; so, I held off scheduling a dentist appointment. Over the weekend, it all escalated. Sunday night I left a message with the dentist asking for a semi-emergency appointment. Monday morning I drove straight to the office as they opened, hoping for a cancellation. They could see me in a day. Cue the ibuprofen. Get to work. And be greatly relieved there was a cancellation that morning that only meant curtailing one client meeting by about fifteen minutes.
The dentist will see you now, and he did. He alleviated my worst fears (which I won’t go into, but were rather extreme because too many friends provide advice via horror stories that are incredibly low probability, evidently.) He confirmed my financial fears. the reason I didn’t get the tooth taken care of ten years ago was because a crown would cost over $2,000. $2,000 for a microscopic crack seemed disproportionate then, and it did now. Add in inflation, and make that at least $2,500. But now, the crown would be coupled with a root canal, a root canal with no assurance that they’d find all of the affected material. It would be possible to spend thousands of dollars without resolving the issue, and then have to spend more to extract the tooth. The good news was that extracting the tooth could be done for about a tenth the cost of the crown and root canal. The bad news was that my mouth, teeth, gums, and jaws are so healthy that extracting that molar would be painful for me and difficult for him.
An axiom in karate is, “Do not move until it is to your advantage to do so.” All of the options involved pain. There was one option, however, that could involve the least pain and possibly the least expense. Leave the tooth in place, wait, and medicate in the interim to fight pain and possible infections. Hence, the ibuprofen and antibiotics, (and it just happens to be the time to take my medication, so pardon me as I step away to pop a pill.)
By the way, it is more than popping a pill. I am not required to eat something at the same time, but it helps. So, my apologies to my naturopath as I have a snack before dinner.
For the last several days, most of my diet has been mush food. A few days of the antibiotics, a few doses of ibuprofen, reassuring (yet cautionary) words from my dentist, and perhaps my body’s natural healing abilities mean the pain has mostly subsided. I’m willing to try eating something that involves a knife and a fork.
I think back two weeks to when the pain started and can’t recall anything I ate that could act as a trigger. It wasn’t until yesterday that I made a connection. Two weeks ago there was an event that caused me to clench my teeth, carry too much stress, and make me worry about my ability to keep my house and stay in my community. I paid my taxes. I paid more in taxes by percent and by dollar amount than I had in years, despite only making 1% more than the year before. Personal finances are personal. Numbers are objective and arguably abstract; but our economy and society rely on currency and numbers. Sudden bills are a threat to anyone without sufficient resources; but they create a threat that isn’t addressed by flight or fight. We are left with the options of grin, grit, or grind and move on.
There are real pains associated with being poor, or at least poor enough to not be able to pay for all of the necessities. Thanks to rising home prices, instead of 40% of Americans having negative net worth, there’s only 20%. I’m one of the lucky ones who has moved up. I make about half the median income, which puts me in the bottom 50%; but doing better than the 43 million who live in poverty. I am amazed at the millions whose situation are dire, and am not surprised that their health can be poor, their health care costs high, and see them falling into a trap.
I’m fortunate enough that my business is doing much better this year by some measures, and that my move into real estate is looking encouraging thanks to supportive friends, brokers, and serendipity. (Thanks to co-listing, I’m now involved in three listings and maybe a sale or two: Dunlap Drive, Otter Way, and Timber Lane.)
Encouragement comes as non-real estate clients advance their projects, buyers visit listings, my portfolio possibly recovers, and a variety of endeavours proceed. Those activities are in a race with my medications, my body’s natural healing efforts, and a wide set of influences in this bizarre world we live in. Stay tuned to see who wins and how. In the meantime, I’ll wait and medicate – and very carefully practice using a knife and fork, again.