Wisdom Teeth Don’t Deserve Their Name

It’s kind of like a right of passage – like doing taxes or sitting at the DMV for five hours on a Saturday. Once you find yourself wasting a perfectly good day off doing something less interesting than watching your nails grow, you’re basically a real adult. Congratulations. Well, after getting your wisdom teeth ripped out – excuse me, I meant to say extracted – you’re basically something kind of like an adult. Sorta.

Most of my friends got their wisdom teeth removed when we were going into our second year of college – think, 19 years old. I was one of them. In fact, three of us got our teeth out within the same week. So, we were all miserable together, sending multiple Snaps of our bruised chipmunk cheeks (no filter required). However, while I wallowed in pain and exhaustion, I couldn’t help but question why they call wisdom teeth “wisdom teeth.”

Let’s get one thing straight first.

While many take the prescribed pain medication, I did not – you’ll see why. So none of this was really influenced by some wild drug haze (probably just that stupidity that comes along with starvation). I took two pills prescribed to me, then puked my guts out the night of the extraction (and almost passed out). Advil worked fine.

I mean, have you ever puked with fresh stitches in your mouth? No thank you.

So, now that that’s cleared up, let’s get to the good part.

Guess number one.

With the constant pain and inability to actually chew, it’s sort of like a rebirth – you’re basically going through your infancy all over again. Only this time, you get to wipe your own butt and emerge within a week of the surgery with renewed wisdom. Allegedly. Face it, when you can’t chew anything and you feel like death warmed over, you’re pretty much going to act like a giant baby. But after such a traumatic experience, (get them ripped out while you’re awake – that was a doozy) and once you return to your daily activities, you feel a little wiser.

In other words, when someone comes up to you and tells you they’ve booked a time to get their wisdom teeth removed, you know the proper reaction to the news is to tell them, very adamantly, to run the other way.

Guess number two.

I dove right in to this decision. I have TMJ, which means my jaw likes to slip out of place, lock shut, and just click for no reason. So, when I saw that my wisdom teeth were coming in at awkward angles, I wasn’t about to wait to see if they would effect my jaw. Without really thinking, I decided to have them ripped out (I use that term often because it’s literally what they do – nothing about this experience is chill).

My next mistake was to go through the whole experience awake. I had laughing gas – but I was not laughing at all. I had to keep raising my hand for more Novocaine because I could feel them hacking away at my gums.

Why so much detail? I’m working up to this point. Wisdom teeth could have gotten their name from allowing you to learn from the mistakes you made when you decided to have them removed. Like making hasty choices and living with the realization that, no, you can’t just leap out of the oral surgeon’s chair mid-way through the procedure. I certainly gained some wisdom and now I have to make a pros and cons list for every decision I make.

It took me two hours today to decide if I actually wanted to post this article.

Guess number three.

They ran out of names. If I were in charge of naming these teeth that usually require surgery to keep them from torturing you, I certainly wouldn’t call them “wisdom teeth.” It would be more along the lines like, “sons-of-b*tches” or “worse than the creation of mosquitoes” or “I’d rather file my taxes all weekend.” But seriously? “Wisdom teeth” sounds a little too positive for something that usually causes so much misery.

The real reason.

I Googled the question, of course. I wouldn’t leave you hanging. These guys got their names because they come in at a much later period in your life (generally appearing between the ages of 17 and 25). Technically, we’re supposed to be wiser when they come in, compared to when our adult teeth pop up pre-puberty. Some people can also see this as a time to ditch childhood simplicities and dive into the wonderful world of adulting. (Don’t do it – it’s a trap.)

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