My dental disturbance

South Korea

Friday morning I awoke with a slight toothache. I didn’t think much of it, because I’ve never really had a toothache before, and I’m 24, not 8 years old. I was under the assumption that my teeth were fine. So anyway, I went to school and my tooth continued to bother me. I spoke to  one of my Korean teacher friends, and she said she could call and get me an appointment at her dentist for the next day, which I thought was a great idea.  With that in mind I continued on with my day, but by the time  I put my kindergartners on the bus at 2:30 pm, I was in immense pain.  This point in the day is my break time until I teach big RT classes from 4-5:30, so I tried to get some prep work done, but the throbbing emanating from my lower jaw was making things incredibly difficult for me.  My teacher friends could see that something was wrong, and another Korean teacher called a local dentist to see if I could come in later on that evening.  Upon that confirmation I felt a little relieved, but by this time my face was starting to swell up as well, and it felt incredibly hot. Super attractive, obviously. I finally taught my 4:00-4:45, found someone to teach my last class (Tom, who was an absolute angel, taught my class even though that was his break period AND Friday was his last day teaching. He’s now heading back to the States. Thanks Tom!) and dragged Gloria out to the dentist. I was unaware how much my face had changed until I hopped on the elevator in the building housing the dentist’s office in downtown Hopeyeong. Monster! My bottom left jaw had swollen to tennis ball size. It looked as if I was a foraging squirrel with my food stuffed in my cheek.  Children stared in awe. I’m surprised there were no screams of fright.

After sitting down in the dentist’s chair, the assistant took one look in my mouth and said whatever correlates to “wisdom tooth” in Korean. And here’s an interesting fact-in Korea wisdom teeth are referred to as “love teeth”, apparently because you get them when you are old enough to find and feel love. Similar to how we came up with the name wisdom teeth in the West, I think.  Back to my saga. The dental assistant, who was adorably dressed in her uniform, took me for an x-ray of my mouth (on a side note, uniforms for everything are so cute in Korea! Even at fast food restaurants they wear jaunty little neck scarfs and lapel pins and whatnot.) When the dentist finally made his way to consult me, we had a very interesting three-way conversation : Gloria, dentist, Ashley, 1/3 English spoken by all parties, and 2/3 Korean spoken mostly by the Koreans in attendance, and quite productive overall. He told me that my wisdom tooth was underneath my back teeth and that an infection was causing inflammation. Before I could have surgery to cut out the impacted tooth, I would have to take antibiotics to make the swelling go down. We scheduled my surgery for Tuesday, contingent with the deflated swelling of my face.  Apparently it’s hard to cut into someone’s jawbone if they can’t open their mouth. Who knew?  Then Gloria and I went to the pharmacist’s shop right across the hall and picked up the medication that I am now dependent on for general well-being. This prescription includes painkillers, antibiotics, and something for digestion. I don’t quite understand the digestion part, no one seemed to care to answer my queries as to why I need an extra pill for digestion. There are some pratfalls to not speaking the native language for a trip to any medical professional. My pills are conveniently dispersed into tiny plastic baggies, 9 in all, and I take three per day after breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each baggy contains 5 pills. I don’t know which pills are which.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that the ratio of antibiotics to painkillers is not what I would like it to be-why would I need the same amount? My face HURTS and I look like a leper, minus the flaky skin business. Give me more painkillers. The antibiotics  will do their magic, hopefully. But my first night on meds,  the painkillers wore off at around 1 a.m., leaving me writhing around in whiny-pain-non-sleep mode until about 7:30, when I felt justified in getting up to eat a piece of bread and take my morning dose.  Then I passed out again until 11. I do not want to have to suffer through that nonsense for several more days.  One container of pain pills please!

I thought of posting a picture of my current chubby cheek-ness, but my vanity wouldn’t let me put the horror of my visage onto the internet for all eternity. Maybe after Tuesday’s surgery, when I am left on the couch to my own devices for a few days. But probably not. Love letters of adoration and a reminder of my former beauty are appreciated. And (non-horror) stories about the ease of wisdom teeth removal are also welcome!

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