Toothaches. Painful, unpleasant, boring, irritating toothaches. Over the course of my life, I’ve changed dozens of dentists, all of whom were pretty moody, now that I think of it. Imagine looking down in people’s mouth all day long. Who wouldn’t be? My teeth have seen many a dentist maturing, getting divorced, sending their kids to college, marrying them, becoming grandparents, growing old, retiring and all they could say to the departing ones was: ‘Fill me in when you get back.’ I brush, floss, have my teeth checked and cleaned on a regular basis but it’s no use. I’ve had it all: dental infection, cavity, gum disease, braces, plaque, cracked teeth, poorly placed fillings, loss of a tooth, tooth extraction and, last but not least, a crown, though I need to have it replaced. I surely know what’s it like to be a queen. The only thing I haven’t had is tooth problems during pregnancy, which left me wondering to this day why the hell not. Due to fluctuating hormone levels, pregnant women are prone to gingivitis and tooth decay. Naturally, I got a bit paranoid and had my teeth checked more often than I usually do only to be told everything seemed to be in perfect order. Given my dental history, I would greet such statements with great dismay each and every time.
Anyhow, I’ve been having a toothache for a few weeks now. It’s the irksome wisdom tooth again. The gum in the back of my mouth is swollen and I have difficulty opening my jaw. I can’t even eat properly since I’m in pain when chewing and biting. But, don’t you worry about me. I’m a tough cookie. As for my tooth, same old, same old. The condition is probably (not) critical but, whatever the case, I’m not expecting it to pull through.
Let us sneak a peek at my next follow-up appointment with the dentist seasoned with a likely resolution of the crisis:
Dentist: I’m afraid I’ve got some bad news. You need to leave.
Wisdom Tooth: Why?
Dentist: I’m not quite sure why you’re there in the first place. There’s no way to say this nicely. You’re good-for-nothing, an unnecessary evil.
Wisdom Tooth: (sobbing) I used to be wanted and loved once, you know. You wouldn’t have survived if it hadn’t been for me. My three best friends and me were lifesavers.
Dentist: That’s only an assumption. Our great great great great great-grandfathers used to eat difficult-to-chew food and were rather susceptible to tooth decay.
Wisdom Tooth: I did learn the importance of oral hygiene in the meantime. I brush myself every day.
Dentist: I bet you do. If we ignore our teeth, they might go away. However, this has nothing to do with To brush or not to brush. You can prevent cavities by brushing and flossing, which isn’t the case here. You got run over by evolution. You’re not contributing much, not any more. There’s no longer enough room in the jaw to accommodate you.
Wisdom Tooth: I’ve been trying to move into a new position but it doesn’t work.
Dentist: Of course it doesn’t. Other teeth are in the way.
Wisdom Tooth: I’m having an identity crisis here. I don’t know who I am any more.
Dentist: Listen, you’re bad. You have to go. It’s nothing personal. It’s something we have to do, like putting the toilet down. You may know history, but I know dentistry. I’m telling you, it has pretty advanced.
Wisdom Tooth: A dentist always gets to the root of the problem.
Dentist: Don’t get smart with me.
Wisdom Tooth: Will I get to see the tooth fairy?
Dentist: I don’t know. The money she leaves is pathetic anyway.
Wisdom Tooth: Can I at least have a hug?
Dentist: No! No offense.
Wisdom Tooth: None taken. I get the point. When you gotta leave, you gotta leave.
I honestly thought I’ve got rid of all four by now. Just when your least expect it, the third molars strike back. As far as I recall from my biology classes, the bastards usually appear in our late teens, that is early twenties, which is basically the whole point of having such a weird name, since their eruption coincides with entering adulthood. This is depressing. It means I could practically be a mom to this wisdom tooth so why the heck is it coming in so late?
Now, what is the point of my talking about my wisdom teeth? It’s to try to answer a question that has been going through my head for some time: Do we get wiser with age?
Being almost 41, I don’t consider myself old. 40s are the new 20s (thanks George), which makes 50s the new 30s (right, Tom?) But then again, I’m ancient for the jerks to be bugging me now. So, I’m not old, yet a peer called me wise recently, which isn’t really like being told you’re intelligent or well-read. Wisdom comes with age and consequently experience, as we become more educated, knowledgeable, accomplished, adept, rational, pondering, even cautious, if you will. Proper education is important, but we shouldn’t neglect the lessons one receives through informal education obtained by learning from one’s experiences, both good and bad, rather than a formal educational institution. Quite a few people didn’t have papers marked 100 and tacked to the wall or A’s on report cards; some might not have made it past grade school, but still they could have learned more from the school of life than some of our professors. Their shrewdness, sharp-wittedness, and farsightedness coming with age is what makes them wise.
In a nutshell, I wouldn’t call myself wise yet since I’m not old enough to meet the criterion. On the other hand, when compared to an 18-year old, I am definitely more experienced. I’m not sure about being wiser though. Does it mean that my tips have more weight than those of a person half my age or not really?
Are we supposed to measure wisdom with the scale of age and why do we give age so much credit? I’d like you to think it over and I’ll meet you same place to discuss more. Soon (I promise).