Like any responsible adult, I ignored the cavity in my wisdom tooth (or third molar to be medically correct), even after half the tooth disappeared. I know how it sounds, but I promise it’s true. One day I awoke, and instead of the usual almost-microscopic hole in my top left wisdom tooth, a long-standing and avoided cavity I could rub with the tip of my tongue, was a giant gap. In place of the little pit was a crater of a tooth, two jagged points with a deep valley in between. The thought of swallowing half of a fully developed tooth is a bit unnerving, to say the least, but alas, I shall never know the true destiny of my inadequate decayed enamel. Despite the fact my sharp and perhaps dangerous shard of a tooth was still lodged deep into my jaw, I went on with life as usual. Not only did I hate the dentist, fear laughing gas, anesthesia, blood and dental pliers, but also I didn’t want to take time off from work. I had just been recently promoted and didn’t want to seem lazy to my overbearing and passive-aggressive supervisor. So, on life went. I ate normal, worked out, went on long hikes, camped and every few hours found my tongue back at my nub of a tooth, inspecting for further damage, a newly developed nervous habit. Then, the pandemic hit. Instead of working or going out to eat, I was stuck inside, with my husband, Netflix, some books and not to forget, lots and lots of my favorite sugary and crunchy snacks. Noelle and I did our best to stay entertained, playing video games, talking via FaceTime and phone calls to loved ones, and perhaps most entertaining of all, binge reading. But still, I was bored and restless. So, unsurprisingly, I turned back to my old friend and longest habit, chronic sweets eating. I knew and naively accepted the risks of my cavity-producing addiction. As one might imagine, due to my reckless behavior in regards to my oral hygiene and thanks in no small part to my diet that is more akin to a 5-year-old’s, it didn’t take long for disaster to strike. One Saturday morning, after consuming a sandwich, some syrupy and sugary strawberry lemonade and a small pouch of salty pretzel sticks, I felt one of the worst pains of my life. I stood up to put my dishes in the sink, and the remaining portion of my broken tooth erupted the entire left side of my mouth in pure agony. Hours later, and after multiple temperature checks, masks, gloves and hand sanitizing, the emergency dentist diagnosed me. Two of my wisdom teeth had cavities, and the other two were digging into my gums, creating pockets for bacteria. In short, all four had to go and fast. This is where I learned my first lesson. Now, I’m not writing this article in a pathetic and foolish self-loathing fashion, nor am I authoring this to point fingers at readers who practice the same dental hygiene as me. I am a writer pulling from my experience to entertain an audience (hopefully), even if it comes at my own expense. This all being said, you dear reader, may wish to heed my advice, or you shall face the same consequences I did. Don’t ignore what ails you. At this point in the story, I am still in excruciating pain, my tooth making it challenging to speak or even move my mouth. Not to forget, I have waited hours in my car and then in a small emergency dental clinic, my open mouth risking exposing others and myself to the invisible danger that is COVID-19 and of course, racked up hundreds of dollars in unnecessary X-rays and examination fees; an entire visit that could have been avoided. If I had first sought the professional opinion of my family dentist when I noticed the small cavity in my tooth, and then subsequently and undoubtedly gone to an oral surgeon to have all four removed, my pain, extra medical bills and exposing myself, my family and the public to potential germs and viruses, would have never happened. I could have had all of my wisdom teeth extradited months before the pandemic hit, with a lot less pain and anxious waiting. As the first weekend of my extreme tooth pain came to a close, over-the-counter painkillers easing the throbbing, I prepared for another impromptu visit: the oral surgeon. My stomach cramping from the antibiotics prescribed by the emergency dentist, I sat in a small and noticeably sterilized office as I signed paper after paper. I promised not to sue, to pay in full and that I was not a drug addict. Then, I got the worst news I had gotten all week. The soonest the oral surgeon could squeeze me in for extraction was just shy of two weeks away. I would have to make it 13 days, with a quarter of my teeth aching from a single tooth. I would have to pop painkillers more frequently than desired, eat on one side of my mouth and brush carefully. The two weeks in between my initial consultation, and my surgery were life-changing. By fully realizing the scope of the punishment for my denial and inability to face my fear of the dentist, I was in for a painful and scary month. Do your research. The scariest part for me during the two weeks I was seemingly stuck in limbo, between pain and surgery, was the fear of the unknown. Up to this point, I have never been put under with general anesthesia, a must for this surgery as my top two wisdom teeth were not straightforward or quick removals. I had never recovered from surgery, not knowing what to expect regarding pain levels and bleeding. I hate blood. So, to ease my nervousness, I set out on an internet search, reading from real science and medical blogs, browsing other’s experiences and learning the facts straight from oral surgeons and mouth experts alike. I researched side effects and normal reactions to being put to sleep. The takeaway was every mouth is different, every person is different and your response to a surgery or medicine is not the same as mine. To know what to expect, I would have to cross my fingers, say my prayers, close my eyes and get it over with. But, what kept me up at night, and what still unnerves me a little even now after all of this, is the loss of control. The thought of getting teeth pulled by a trained surgeon who does it all day is somehow reassuring, and even being in an unconscious state by an even more trained medical expert is calming. However, surgery is still terrifying due to the exposed and vulnerable state you are put in. No matter who was in the room when I was under, I could still not observe, control or protect my body and myself from the intrusions of the heavy painkillers and sedatives, scalpel and drill. Although my research didn’t completely erase my normal and collective fears of the surgery, it helped to read page after page, website after website, of people who had been through it whether they were patient or surgeon, the vast majority of whom had a positive surgery and easy recovery. Come to terms. As each day ticked by and I got more and more used to the now dull pain in the tooth that started it all, I became more and more aware of what I was about to put my body through. No matter the surgery, whether it be a single tooth, a nose job, full hysterectomy or even open-heart surgery, your body’s recovery will not be overnight. From less than an hour of being asleep under the knife, I spent over a week shaking off the brain fog, fatigue and forgetfulness that are commonly noted side effects of the drugs frequented in general anesthesia. On top of my medically-induced writer’s block, it took weeks to feel like myself again, having to relearn how to chew and cleaning out my mouth after eating a meal. Importantly, I knew myself, and when faced with situations I can’t control, I get anxious. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, I realized I had to go through this surgery no matter how sweaty my palms were or how jelly-like my knees felt. So, even though it didn’t feel like I had a choice, I really had two. I could come to terms with the facts of my predicament, or I could let fear and nervousness rein free, and allow them to dissuade me from showing up for my appointment. Obviously, I chose the former. I utilized meditation, prayer, light exercise and journaling to work through every fear, and every irrational and rational thing that could go wrong while I was sound asleep with pliers in my mouth. Some people deal with stress differently; I usually run from it. I decided this had to change once and for all. By accepting my probable fate, and knowing even if the worst happened, I would be OK, I surprised myself by showing up for my surgery, actually going in the building and even though I shed a few tears as the surgeon and nurses walked in, I stayed seated, fully prepared for whatever came next. The takeaway. As the drugs swam through my veins, making my head light and fuzzy, as I then drifted quickly away into a deep slumber, I felt nothing but peace. Although the medicines coursing through my body I’m sure had a hand, I had faced my fear. If I died right there, or never woke up, stuck in a comatose state for the rest of my life, I was satisfied with the life I had led. I wrote and sealed a letter for my family, acknowledging how much I loved each and every one of them, and how much their support meant to me. Only by looking within myself, to the deepest scariest parts, and then learning how to calm them, was I able to overcome obstacles more substantial than I could have ever fathomed. I prepared myself for the worst, and by analyzing my life and actions as if I were to really die, I came to discover just how much I love myself, my life and the career I’m in the process of building. I no longer fear death the same as I did before all this happened. Waking up from surgery, feeling euphoric, no doubt from the medicine, I was ecstatic to have four fewer teeth, but more importantly, to be alive and awake. The road to recovery hasn’t been easy, and there have been some twists, turns and potholes, but so far, I’m doing good. Having four wisdom teeth yanking for my gums at 23 years old, was the most harrowing and perspective-altering experience of my young life. Although I can’t yet say if I will be scared or avoidant of the next hurdle that comes my way, what I can say is through it all, I’m so glad I showed up for myself. I’m thrilled that for once in my life, I was faced with a beast straight out of my worst nightmares, and instead of running, hiding or ignoring it, I tied my shoes, stretched my legs and sprinted toward it.