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A toothache for Christmas

Dec 12, 2013 - By Betty Starks Case

It's spoiled some fun, but the season still has its gifts

As I begin this column, it's the second week in December and so cold outside I don't even want to go Christmas shopping.

Matter of fact, I don't even want to write a Christmas letter.

But there are positives to the situation.

Last year, our kids gave us fleece bedsheets for Christmas. Unless you have them, you can't imagine how soft and inviting they are. It's a pleasure to crawl into bed at night no matter how cold it is outside. The only negative is that we find it more difficult than ever to crawl out in the morning.

Part of my reluctance to get with the spirit this season is that a small piece broke off a wisdom tooth a week ago. That meant a trip to the dentist.

I think I hear you asking, "What in the world are you doing with wisdom teeth at your age? Most adults lost theirs years ago!"

Maybe I was meant to confound the dental world. One third molar (wisdom tooth) even has a gold crown. At the time, the doctor insisted it was a good tooth and that I was using it, so it was worth a crown. Because I have this determination to retain my own teeth for a lifetime, I consented.

I remember a long-ago health fair when several dentists operated booths where they checked teeth and encouraged potential patients to care for theirs.

"Hey!" called one doctor to another. "Come look! This woman has all her wisdom teeth!"

I didn't know if I should feel threatened, or try to broaden my smile to display them.

Last week, after drilling out the filling of the ailing tooth, we agreed it must be extracted. It was fragile by then and came out in pieces.

With credit to my dentist, all this occurred without pain.

After returning home, I somehow ended up with a "dry socket." For a few days, four Ibuprofen and Tylenol every four hours and being very cautious about what I ate kept pain to a tolerable measure, though it throbbed at times as did my upper teeth and sinus on that side, with occasional ear pain. Clearly there was an exposed nerve there somewhere.

Dry socket, in case you haven't experienced it, means you've somehow lost the blood clot needed to protect that fussy nerve until healing is complete. Bad news.

I checked online and found endless pitiful blogs from unfortunate souls who suffered mind-blowing pain from this situation.

There, I read repeatedly that "oil of cloves" purchased over the counter in the pharmacy or a health food store is the only remedy known to stop the unbearable pain. It is extracted primarily from cloves, to lesser degrees from other spices and mixed with oils like sesame.

When I asked for oil of cloves in several pharmacies, I was told they didn't have it. They did, however offer various "toothache kits" which, I found by reading the fine print, contain Eugenol -- just another word or brand name for clove oil!

In fact, cloves in some form are being used by my dentist to treat my dry socket.

This was all a new experience for me, and I hope you never need to deal with it. But in the event any of my readers should one day find themselves with such a painful dental condition, you'll know there is treatment that works.

Meanwhile, the tooth problem has kept our annual family Christmas party on hold. The party has become a tradition with us, and the resulting nonsense and laughter is badly needed at this point. Son and daughter-in-law sent a big smoked salmon and homemade candies for the party, and the goodies are just waiting for someone to come and help enjoy them.

Maybe a New Year's party? That tooth socket had better be healed by then.

Good news is that my youngest brother and wife are moving to Riverton from Rock Springs, and we're all happy about that. They purchased a lovely home down the street and around the bend from us. We can almost jog over for a cup of coffee.

Another brother lives only a mile from us, and a third one just up the steep hill. We've already informed him that he needs to install an outdoor elevator to help us navigate the short-cut to his house.

What a blessing to have the remaining three of my five brothers nearby, all of whom have known my mate as a big brother for so many years they scarcely know the difference, and with wives who truly feel like sisters to us both.

Son and Daughter won't be here this Christmas, but they call every week. Their generosity knows no end. Dear friends down the road fit into our lives in almost the same category and have invited us for Christmas dinner.

So, as American author Anthony Brandt once noted, "Other things may change us, but we start and end with family."

I don't believe Santa couldn't find a better gift in his big red bag than that.

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