Tooth Ache

Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? (1 Corinthians 5:6 NIV)

It all started in elementary school with the infamous health classes which were intended to teach us good personal hygiene. There were lessons in what to wash and how often. There were sessions on how to sit up straight and walk upright so we didn’t look like gorillas swinging down the hallways. And there were lessons on how to brush our teeth, up and down, regularly and with fluoride toothpaste.

I tried to pay close attention as long as a butterfly didn’t distract me when it flitted about outside the classroom window. The last thing I wanted was a mouth full of decaying, disgusting, blackened, crooked and chipped teeth. Most of the lessons made a lasting impression as they were repeated in subsequent school years complete with disturbing photographs and videos. Only a few fillings and almost sixty years later I’d done pretty well. Then it started.

In the middle of December, I had a tooth ache. It was painful enough to warrant a visit to the dentist. The dentist said something about pockets being too deep for her to clean and I was pawned off on a periodontist. When I visited the periodontist’s office the pain wasn’t as bad, (lots of Ibuprofen helped). They took measurements and agreed deep cleaning was necessary but couldn’t schedule anything for several weeks. So I did the logical thing. I went on vacation to visit some of our children for Christmas.

It was holiday time with the family and I had a tooth ache. A week later after frowning regularly and chewing carefully, acting a touch grumpy if truth be told, we were home and I decided I couldn’t wait for the appointment and scheduled the first of four stages for the next morning as an emergency patient. At this point I really didn’t care what they did as long as the pain went away. Then the snowball started rolling downhill and getting bigger and bigger.

Before the anesthetic was injected and the process started they chose to measure my blood pressure. 220 over 140 was a tad on the high side! They wanted to postpone but I didn’t see that as an option. I convinced them to proceed and I’d visit my doctor about the BP afterwards. Thankfully they did the first and most painful area of my mouth relieving me of most of the pain. The next day I went to my doctor without grimacing in pain each time I closed my mouth. Even though my blood pressure was back down to normal levels (pain can have that effect) I was put on hypertension medication.

There were still three quadrants and five months of chiseling, scrapping, grinding and cleaning to go. In the end the pain was reduced to a dull roar surrounding one tooth. That one wasn’t cooperating but appeared in good shape otherwise. So there was some cut and paste for the gum along with a bone graft to keep things in place. A few weeks after the last debridement we discovered the tooth had died.

Thus there was a root canal and a crown. Things still weren’t in good shape and the tooth next door to the new crown needed attention at the gum level. More cut and paste. Both were successful but still the tooth was an issue.

To cut this short a year later, after many attempts at keeping the long tooth, we had to give up and pull the puppy. During all this time I didn’t feel the best. Sort of a pain all over and sometimes in areas which caused other fears. Now the tooth was in the periodontists pliers so we could look closely.

There they were. Two lateral cracks, top to bottom, carefully channeling infection into my jaw but invisible to dental x-rays. More digging, drilling and bone grafting and things were in order sans one tooth. A few days after the brutal attack I started feeling better. In fact, within a week I felt better than I had in years! The small hidden infection had impacted my body head to toe. I’m glad that is over.

It’s like bad yeast permeating the entire loaf as it grows and mutates in the warmth of the oven. What we think is small in our Christian walk, or what we don’t even recognize in ourselves, can grow to take over our life and make us grumpy and frown regularly while chewing carefully on God’s word to keep from causing us pain. We become useless to others and for God. It takes an expert with the right tools to set things in proper order. My periodontist put his sword, aka scalpel, to work in my mouth to separate the bad from the good. And it worked.

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12 NIV) Maybe we need to be applying God’s sword to our lives to separate the bad from the good. It works and the pain goes away.

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