or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Molar Mass

Is is possible to have a paradoxical reaction to codeine? Like, instead of making you sleepy, it revs you up like a caffeine bender? Because I took a Tylenol 3 at 4:30 or so and another at 9:30 and I am supercharged. I Googled it and came up empty-handed, but seriously, I'm just wired.

The reason that I took some Tylenol 3 is that I have a few stitches in my head, and I'm trying to head off the pain: it hasn't been bad so far, because I have a high pain threshold, but better safe than sorry. And the reason I have a few stitches in my head is that they're closing up a hole where a tooth used to reside.

Since it had been nearly twelve years since my last dental examination, I decided as a new year's resolution that it was high time to have my teeth seen to. I thought I had been taking good care of my teeth, but it turns out I had really only been taking good care of my gums (the hygienist was very pleased when I went in for my cleaning), and so I needed a whole pile of fillings. (Luckily we have really good health insurance.) One of the teeth was kind of mess, with a cavity extending under the filling, and the options were an expensive, time-consuming crown to save a tooth that I don't even use (it didn't make contact with any tooth in the lower jaw) or an extraction, so I said the hell with it, just rip it out of my head. And today that's what I had done.

My dentist sent me to a specialist because the tooth in question was the rearmost maxillary molar, which has three roots, and they don't politely line up parallel with the sides: no, they splay out so that the gum has to be cut open to free the tooth. The specialist was really good: after I had been frozen up, it took him no more than five minutes to haul that chunk of ivory out and sew me up. I didn't even know the tooth was out until I saw him threading the suture needle. They asked me if I wanted to see it, and of course I said yes. They asked me if I wanted to keep it, and of course I said yes, and (after a good hard scrubbing, because it had clumps of gum tissue stuck to it) it is sitting on my desk in front of me. And it's big, the same size as the ear-bud on my favourite Scosche headphones. I can't believe that eight hours ago that thing was locked into my head, that thing my body made thirty-five years ago and I'd been lugging around ever since. I also can't believe that the holes in the roots through which the nerves pass are so tiny: I guess I figured they'd be as thick as a pencil lead, but they're really minute, the thickness of a strand of sewing thread, if that.

"Molar", in case you were wondering when I was going to get to the point, is from Latin "mola", which is a millstone, because the molars are the broad, flat grinding teeth. And if you thought to yourself that "mill" might be derived from "mola", then you are absolutely correct, and the evolutionary path is, for once, gorgeously straightforward: Latin "molinus", Late Latin "molina", French "moulin" (which it remains to this day, as in "Moulin Rouge"), Old English "mylen", and Modern English "mill".


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