Under My Teeth

Something’s living under my teeth. Whenever I chew, it screams. I had to stop eating. Now I blend everything up and drink it so I don’t have to hear the sound anymore. Brushing my teeth is out. More screaming; bloodcurdling shrieks stopping only when I don’t apply pressure. Even when I sleep, if my mouth closes and my teeth click together, my ears are pierced with the sounds of agony.

It’s been a couple months and my mouth is a wreck. The dental issues plaguing me throughout my adult life have only gotten worse. I have no job, so that means no insurance. My crippling depression and anxiety mean I won’t take a trip to the dentist or the emergency room. My gums bleed with only the slightest touch and they are terribly swollen and red. The gums surrounding the bottom two front teeth have started to recede downward and out, leaving a pocket of about ⅛ of an inch. The few blended meals I’ve had since the pocket showed up have filled it with bits of food. Whenever I try to extract it, I’m deafened by the sound. I leave it to it rot inside.

The other night, the situation became unbearable. Simply breathing through my mouth put enough pressure on my teeth to set off the screaming. There was no doubting what I had to do next. I couldn’t live with the noise.

I figured the bottom ones with the pocketed gums around them would come out easiest. I stood in front of the bathroom mirror with a desk lamp balanced on the sink. I wanted a lot of light on the area where I’d work. As soon as I touched the pliers to one of the bottom teeth, the screaming started. The volume intensified as got a grip. I could barely see anything and my head spun from the overwhelming volume. With all the strength I could muster, I yanked the tooth down and away from me, bending it at a 90 degree angle. It came out with a crunch and the screaming stopped. Blood drooled from the hole in my gums.

Now that the tooth was gone, I could see how bad the infection had gotten. Food that rotted in the pocket was a magnet for bacteria, and an abscess was plainly visible deep under the gumline and near what I assume was my jawbone. Before I could lose my nerve, I grasped a tooth nearest the hole and pulled it out, too. Somehow, the screaming didn’t seem as loud that time. My ears still rang and tears flooded from my eyes, but I could swear there was less to the sound. Exhausted, I downed six Tylenol and went to bed. The next day would be busy and I needed my strength.

I woke up in agony. The abscess in the front of my lower jaw had drastically grown overnight. Its beige form pushed upward from the empty sockets and was poking out like a fat larva that pressed on the nerves under the neighboring teeth. I don’t know how that didn’t provoke the screaming.

Back in the bathroom, I examined the abscess as best I could. Then I poked it with my tongue. Poked too hard, I guess. It burst and filled my mouth with a vile-tasting gray paste. I retched and spit it into the sink. I grabbed my toothbrush to brush my tongue and inside my mouth and everything that wasn’t my teeth. While I was scrubbing underneath my tongue, I saw something move in the hole in my gums, underneath the now-deflated abscess. Now I was the one who screamed. I slipped the back end of the toothbrush handle into the socket and pushed away the remainder of the abscess matter and caught a glimpse of something black and shiny. It wriggled away quickly, disappearing below the gumline of the remaining teeth.

My ears filled with an astonishing racket. This time, it was different. It was almost like there were more voices now, all pitched in a cacophonous, dissonant harmony. It had to end.

I used the pliers to pull out as many teeth as I could. The ones in front didn’t give up much of a fight, but the molars were horrible. Each time I worked to get a grip and squeezed hard enough to pull, they shattered into rotten splinters of enamel that made me choke and cough. The screaming died down with every open socket but it was still deafening. Without many options, I grasped the exposed roots left by the burst molars and pulled. The screaming was replaced by the sound of a thousand shrubs being simultaneously pulled from the ground and white pain exploded through my head. When I succeeded in yanking out the last one, a double-rooted wisdom tooth, the screaming stopped.

Everything was silent. My mouth gouted blood and pustulent fluid into the sink. With shaking hands, I shone the desk lamp into my mouth. As I examined myself, I saw the shiny black thing. This time, I was more fascinated than terrified. It slid out from one of the rear sockets. It was thin and slick with my blood and saliva. It kept pushing out, coiling itself on my tongue. More and more of its body escaped from the raw hole until my mouth was nearly full. Tilting my head downward, I let it spill out into the sink. It uncoiled like a garden hose onto the porcelain. Another two or so feet snaked out of my mouth until it was out of me. Then, without any ceremony, it crawled down the drain.

With no more screaming to disturb me, I slept like a baby. A couple days went by, and then my mouth started to itch. The feeling made me want to drag sandpaper over the holes until there was nothing left but jawbone. I managed to control myself. This morning, however, I awoke to an ecstasy of delight. My mouth was melting with pleasure. Every socket was being scratched exactly where it itched most, over and over.

I flew to the bathroom, turned on the lamp, and looked in the mirror. Hundreds of tiny black worms swam in and out of the holes; their bodies manipulating the nerves therein to communicate the greatest sense of physical relief I’d ever experienced. In a mindless, hedonistic fog, I closed my mouth and squeezed my jaw to push the top sockets against the bottom ones. When the holes touched, the tiny worms could crawl in and out, up and down. As if in thanks, they began to sing.

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