I have a toothache. I’ve had this same toothache for almost a month now. Well, it started out as a toothache and now it feels more like a tender spot in my gum in one corner of my mouth. This means I can only chew on one side of my mouth. It also means I am reminded of the existence of my jaw when I lay on that side of my face. Oh, and when I close my mouth, I have to be mindful of the juxtaposition of teeth and soft tissue.
Initially, I wondered what the cause of the toothache was. I racked my brain to see if anything interesting enough to cause a toothache had happened to me: the answer was no. Then I thought, ‘hey, it must be caused by inflammation’ since the area was also slightly inflamed at the beginning. So I flossed like it was going out of fashion, but nothing changed. And then one night, as I turned it over in my mind, I traced the area with the tip of my tongue and realized what it was: an impacted tooth.
A long long time ago, back when I wanted to get braces, I had gone to see a dentist and part of the feedback I got was that I had to wait for all my teeth to be in my mouth before we started re-arranging them. This made sense to me, so I did a quick tongue-assisted count and realized that one tooth was missing – the one in the back right corner. A quick scan showed that the tooth was actually in my mouth, but the guy could not come out because there wasn’t enough space and it wasn’t growing straight.
The dentist advised that I had two options: I could have the tooth surgically removed or I could wait to see what it does. If I were to have it surgically removed, they won’t be able to go through my mouth, they would have cut into my jaw and take it out. This would require local anesthesia, he said, but when he saw the horror written all over my face, he added that it’s not as bad as it sounds and the entire visit to the clinic won’t take but three to four hours. Now, when they tell you that first impressions last longest, you should believe them, because I heard myself saying, ‘let’s just allow it to do what it wants to do’. The problem is, ten years later, it is still doing it.
Ten years. I could have taken it out, gotten the braces, taken the braces out and forgotten about both the tooth and the braces. The scar would have healed by now. The pain would have been forgotten. But here I am, nursing the pain of an impacted tooth because I refused to embrace the pain of fixing the impaction.
And this does not apply only to toothaches. It also applies to broken bones, snapped ligaments and broken hearts. Also ailing wallets and shaky careers. Many times, we have to take the bold, decisive action that leads to course-correction rather than hope that things somehow get better. Just close your eyes and do it, like we say in Lagos. Look at it as an investment. Your future self will thank you profusely.
PS. I still think I need braces.