Wednesday 16 August 2017

I am become dumb

I've done I am become Mark where I cited J Robert Oppenheimer's "I am become death".  I have toothsome tales today about two generations of my family. At The Institute I have a useful classroom exercise to reflect upon the [wonderful] diversity that is part of the  human condition. It provides an opportunity to critically evaluate a 'fact' that everyone knows to be true, but isn't. The fact being that adult humans have 32 teeth. Counting actual teeth is real human heads reveals that N=32 is not even the majority condition: most of us have at least one 3rd molar which fails to erupt.
Me, I have only 3 visible 3rd molars; or wisdom teeth as they are commonly called. The upper left M3, although apparent on X-ray, never showed its head above the gum-line. That's okay, my two lower M3s, however, didn't have enough room in my lower jaw and so came out crooked with the occlusal face pointing forward at the adjacent M2. This condition is common enough to feature in Wikipedia  as impacted wisdom tooth [whence x-ray R]. My offspring Dau.I and Dau.II have half their genes in common (with each other and their father) and manifest a similar dental problem. As they crossed into adulthood and their wisdom teeth started to erupt wonk, they went to a dental surgeon and had some of them removed. Part of the argument was that by decluttering the jaw, the remaining teeth would shuffle about in the remaining space and straighten out.

That option was never suggested to me at the appropriate time, so I've had to soldier on with an awkward diastema on both sides at the back of my lower jaw. My dentist [prev], let's call him Bill, is mildly eccentric as dentists go: prone to homeopathy, over-enthusiastic about dental floss, sporting a peach-coloured dentist's chair, and convinced that amalgam fillings are the cause of most of the evils in the world. I like him because he's quite non-interventionist and over the years we've talked about my wisdom teeth and then done nothing about them. One persistent argument which muddied the waters was that he'd rather remove the adjacent M2s which both have [amalgam!] fillings in the belief that the wisdom teeth would then turn face up and shunt forward and serve their turn at the chomp. All Spring this year I had a succession of transitory toothaches and infections which resolved themselves with a few days of vigorous brushing - or just resolved themselves in time.  I figured that, getting older, my immune system wasn't dealing with crud build-up in the subtle, nuanced way of a younger chap and that I was looking at similar problems more often and more serious as senility progressed. Bill and I had a forthright discussion and he agreed to refer me to his current favorite among dental surgeons in Dublin with the imprimatur "maybe it is time".

Anyway, I went at the end of last week. You've got admire the efficiency of healthcare professionals; they don't piffle about when they are working at the rate of  €900/hour. The sports car needs to be paid for. The X-ray of my dentition was produced with a chef's "this one was done earlier" flourish and we discussed whether the top right Mshould come out too because it would have nothing to bite on after its lower partner was gone. I said "Take it"; she sent me out to pay anther €100 and when I returned she gave me two paracetamols, 1 aspirin and an IV shot of midazolam "it's like valium only 20x stronger". The next 30 minutes was a most peculiar out-of-mind experience. A distant aethereal part of my mind registered a lot of crunching and drilling but I couldn't feel a thing because, while I was in a dream-state, the d-surgeon had localled up my gums with lidocaine. Less than an hour later (so the d-surgeon and her assistant had time for a cuppa tea before the next patient?) I was being escorted across the road to my waiting car lighter by 3 surplus teeth and the bones of €1,000.

If the quality of The Blob seems to shift down market over the next few weeks, it's because I've lost my wisdom teeth. "I am become dumb" [that's what passes for a joke here]. Actually I was literally dumb for the first 40 minutes after the midazolam wore off: my tongue and lips felt so thick that I could only mumble. I'll add that, the night after the operation, I woke up at 0230hrs [two-thirty = tooth hurtee, geddit? It's the Chinese dentist joke, to which I so rarely get a chance to give an airing in these right on times].

But there is a serious sensory investigative outcome from this because midazolam is the first player in the current US lethal injection protocol which I've covered before and indeed before. From my experience last week, you could have hacked off my leg with a rusty saw and I would have been frankly, midazolam, I don't give a damn. In that sense alone, the death penalty is not a cruel or unusual punishment as forbidden by the US Constitution.

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