don’t just numb it; treat it

Remember how I wrote about getting four teeth extractions in the last post? Well, as of yesterday I’ve racked it up to five, with two more to go. The fifth is a top right wisdom tooth that had to be removed because it has caries (decay). The next two I gotta pull are actually bottom wisdom teeth; one on the left, one on the right. I really don’t look forward to that at all, because it requires surgery. My dentist briefed me on the procedure and I shudder to think of it each time. He says the bone (of each tooth) needs to be sawed into half so that they can pull out the top half and bottom half and in order to do so, some gum will have to be cut away as well. Now I can’t even stand the tiniest poke on my gum so when he said cutting and gum in the same sentence, I just can’t.

I didn’t mention it in my previous post why I was getting so much tooth work done. I’m getting braces fitted pretty soon and in this leg of the process, I gotta make sure my teeth with decay have their fillings in, wisdom teeth that may pose problems down the line are removed, and 4 pre-molars taken out to make space for my overcrowded teeth to move into alignment. All of this for a better bite, a cleaner mouth and of course a prettier smile. I can’t wait!

No seriously, I can’t. Wait, that is. I have been a big baby at many junctures of this process and I’m only at the start.

At my last appointment with my orthodontist (the one who deals with the braces), we were trying to fit metal bands in my back molars. These bands would serve as the foundation upon which other rubber bands and appliances are attached in my set of braces. We got the top left, top right and bottom right all fitted nicely but when we got to the bottom left – OUCH. Too much pain was involved. At first I thought I was being a pansy about it and tried to tolerate the pain. At some point I suspect my ortho thought I was being a pansy too because she made a comment about how I have to be mentally prepared for pain since I’ve decided to undergo braces treatment (which was, on hindsight, a rather snarky comment hmm). So we tried different things and there was some prodding and poking going on around the area to try and find out what was causing so much pain.

My ortho couldn’t find out what it was that was causing that abnormal pain in just that area. I have a theory though, that it’s because I only had teeth extracted in the left side just the day before visiting her. If I’m right, then it begs the question: how could she be so clueless about pain management?!!! But for all the things that went a little wrong at this visit, my ortho said something that stuck.

I suggested we put numbing cream and an anaesthetic jab into that area so we could fit the metal band in. At that suggestion, she said: “Don’t just numb it. We need to treat it. Let it rest and see if it gets better. We’ll put things on hold and come back to it in a month’s time. While we’re waiting, let’s get the other teeth worked on – pull out the impacted and decaying wisdom teeth, and get your fillings done. Health is more important than aesthetics okay? We’re not in a rush here.”

Oh. My. Gosh. Can I just tell you, right there and then I had a spiritual lesson going on. How absolutely true it is to say that with pain in our lives, it’s not okay to just numb it. We must treat it. And that’s the problem with most of us (I’m the first guilty party raising my hands). Many times we just numb our pain away.

Pain relief for the dull aches in our lives come in many forms – late nights spent watching mindless episodes of trash TV, stuffing ourselves with junk food, going on shopping sprees and calling it stress relief, texting people you shouldn’t really be getting so emotionally involved with, constantly checking up your social media to get dopamine hits, the list goes on and I write it well because I’ve lived each one of them before. But these are just numbing creams. They make the pain go away, but they don’t make the problem go away.

The problems run deep, and we need to work with God to treat them. He wants to treat them. C.S. Lewis wrote that pain is like God’s megaphone to rouse a deaf world.

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

I believe that God is a Great Physician. He knows where our pain is and why they exist, even the causes that are unknown to us. And because He made us and knows us, He knows how to treat the pain. He doesn’t want to just cover over it with some temporary cream, He wants us to be free from the causes of our pain.



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